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Georgetown Bioterrorism Expert Appointed to Biodefense Advisory Board


Washington, DC—Georgetown University bioterrorism expert Kenneth Dretchen, PhD, has been named by Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt to the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) for a three-year term. The panel was created as part of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act in 2006 to provide expert guidance to the Secretary on technical issues related to bioterrorism. Dretchen, chair of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Pharmacology, was part of a team that developed a portable chemical antidote injection that every member of the U.S. military now carries.

“I am honored by this opportunity—this committee will be making important recommendations to the federal government,” said Dretchen after attending the group’s first meeting on December 17. “We have already been asked to review all of the government’s plans relating to surveillance, counter-medications and emergency response training for potential bioterrorism events, and will report these findings to the Secretary.”

Dretchen, who also directs Georgetown’s Biosecurity Institute, is one of four academics on the thirteen-member panel. The panel will meet periodically and is charged with determining how best to to discuss how to prevent, prepare for, and respond to adverse health effects of public health emergencies. They will also make recommendations about research and development, and help the agency make decisions on where to focus its resources.

“This board will play an important role in ensuring that our nation is well-prepared to prevent and respond to public health emergencies,” Secretary Leavitt said an HHS press release. “The members’ depth of expertise will be invaluable as we continue to prepare.”

Dretchen, who is also a consultant to Department of Homeland Security, focuses his research on pharmacological defense from threats by biological or chemical agents. He has evaluated long-term, low-level exposure to nerve agents for possible association with Gulf War syndrome and evaluated several antidotes to nerve agents. His is currently developing a stand-alone detection system for airborne biological or chemical agents.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which is home to 60 percent of the University’s sponsored research funding.


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