Giroir testifies before House Committee on emerging chemical and biological threats, national solutions

October 18, 2013
photo of Giroir at House hearing

Dr. Brett P. Giroir gives expert testimony to House Armed Services Committee

Brett P. Giroir, M.D., interim executive vice president of Texas A&M Health Science Center, recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities to address emerging chemical and biological threats and countermeasure capabilities for the Department of Defense.  The testimony was requested because of the rising awareness of threats imposed by Syria, Iran, North Korea and global terrorist networks.

Giroir affirmed the imminent threat posed by these states and organizations, and proposed solutions that bring together civilians, military, academia and commercial institutions to guarantee public health preparedness.   The best example of such a solution is the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM), a division of the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

When asked about the nation’s highest chemical and biological vulnerabilities, Giroir responded that the biggest threat is the ‘unknown unknowns’, meaning genetically modified or chimeric organisms for which the world is completely unprepared.

To address these and other threats, the Texas A&M CIADM is one of three national centers awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services and is the only one led by an academic institution.  It is designed to enhance the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.  The Center’s technology was founded on a 150,000-square-foot revolutionary facility that has pioneered highly flexible, adaptable and mobile manufacturing platforms, at a capital cost 80 percent less than the current state of the art.

The Center is responsible for supplying the nation with 50 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine within four months of notification of the influenza strain by government authorities and will support the advanced development, manufacture, testing and regulatory approval of multiple medical countermeasures representing diverse therapeutic classes and originating from multiple biomanufacturing platforms.

“There is an immediate opportunity for the Department of Defense to utilize our center’s capacity and expertise,” Giroir told members of the subcommittee when discussing collaborative opportunities.  “Texas A&M is highly motivated to continue our distinguished history of service to the nation by supporting the Department of Defense (DOD) in supplying improved vaccines and countermeasure to the warfighter,” said Giroir. “Of particular interest would be DOD partnerships to develop and manufacture products for their stockpile and special immunization programs.”

Giroir assumed interim leadership of Texas A&M Health Science Center in October 2013. Prior to joining the Health Science Center, he served as vice chancellor for strategic initiatives for The Texas A&M University System and principal investigator for the Texas A&M CIADM.

He received his undergraduate degree in Biology, magna cum laude, from Harvard University and his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Alpha Omega Alpha. From 2004 until 2008, Giroir served in the Federal Government as deputy director and then director for the Defense Sciences Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., where he directed a research portfolio of approximately $450 million annually that spanned from fundamental physics to biodefense.

— Blair Williamson

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