Improved biosurveillance capabilities for U.S. Forces Korea
April 11, 2013
- Army researchers develop framework for future biosurveillance
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- A portal, a duel and a kraken that springs to life. No, it's not the latest science fiction movie. It's an advanced technology demonstration that's just getting started.
The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense is working with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to introduce a new advanced technology demonstration- the Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition, known as JUPITR.
The goal of the four-year program is to develop unique biological detection capabilities that will address the demand for stronger biosurveillance capabilities in the Korean Peninsula.
Biosurveillance has been a national priority since 2007, when Homeland Security Presidential Directive-21 formalized a policy that said all hazards threats could take many forms, including naturally occurring disease outbreaks.
Two years later the release of the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats recognized that a pandemic disease knows no borders and that a massive outbreak of a disease was just as much a national security threat as a chemical or radiological incident.
The National Strategy for Biosurveillance was established in 2012. While some organizations began moving on the initiative, there are still a number of questions on how to best implement biosurveillance.
Officials said the JUPITR ATD program allows ECBC and JPEO-CBD to be at the forefront of defining biosurveillance and to demonstrate concepts in a space which allows for an innovative and collaborative approach.
"This is a Department of Defense flagship program for how biosurveillance will manifest itself," said Peter Emanuel, Ph.D., JUPITR ATD leader and ECBC's Research & Technology Directorate's BioSciences division chief. "ATD's are a great opportunity to try risky and innovative concepts and really push the envelope on what our technology can do. JUPITR is aggressively pushing technology to the very limit of what we think it can do to demonstrate in the field what biosurveillance can look like."
JUPITR has four distinct legs, which are designed to each support the overall goal. The first leg of JUPITR is an information portal, similar to a web management tool for health surveillance.
Brandon Flores from JPEO-CBD Information Systems demonstrated the current prototype of the portal in ECBC's Berger Laboratories in January, explaining that, "many people who see it at first say it looks a lot like a personalized iGoogle desktop, except that all the feeds are about disease outbreaks and medical supply shipments."
The second leg, led by Brady Redmond, Ph.D., of R&T's BioSensors Branch, will work with scientists on the Korean Peninsula to build upon the capabilities of their labs, allowing them to conduct analysis at their own facilities rather than taking valuable time to send away samples to stateside laboratories for evaluation.
Jennifer Thermos of Joint Program Management-Contamination Avoidance leads the third leg, which she refers to as "The Shoot-Off" because it will pit a number of field biological detectors against one another with the ultimate winner finding a home in the Korean theater.
The fourth leg is exploring early warning concepts by building on an ongoing JPM-Guardian program called Integrated Base Defense. IBD has, at its core, a massive multi-functional all-seeing sensor suite designed to rapidly establish a defensive perimeter. In field tests the 15-foot high box quickly popped open, raising telescoping towers and activating a myriad of field sensors, leading one soldier to exclaim, "time to release the Kraken boys!" thus coining the nickname.
"In JUPITR we will add a chemical/biological capability to the kraken such that our detectors can fuse with the common operating picture developed by its all-seeing eye in the sky. The devices will learn from kraken's acoustic, infra-red and thermal sensors and be able to direct what and where they look, which amplifies their effectiveness," said Ken Kammerer, JUPITR ATD's deputy.
As the ATD lead, Emanuel is currently leading efforts to ramp up for the official kickoff of the program, determining cost assignments, brokering complex technical solutions and collaborating with existing JPEO and other agency partners to ensure the program is prepared for full operation in FY14.
As one of the original experts charged with crafting biosurveillance policies, and with 20 years of bio-detection expertise in his career, Emanuel is well-suited to lead this program. There are also significant connections to the work conducted within the BioSciences Division.
"Our scientists have been working in biosurveillance for so long, this will almost be like a fifth branch under the division," Emanuel said. "This also allows ECBC's Research & Technology Directorate and its Engineering Directorate the opportunity to have a significant impact in this important field. There are so many opportunities to utilize our talent. It makes it so much easier to be able to tap the wealth of experience within ECBC such as Shawn Funks' ATD team or John Strawbridge's early warning expertise."
This program has been under development for the last two to three years, born out of an overlapping of lessons learned from previous Able Response exercises in Korea, which identified a need for a stronger biosurveillance capability. The next exercise will take place June 17-23 and soon after the ATD formally kicks off.
"Right now, what we have is akin to a big chess board where all the pieces were there, they just weren't working together," Emanuel said. "When you recognize the strength and the weakness of each piece on the chess board and move them in concert toward a specific aim, you have a greater chance of achieving your goal. In this case our goal is to significantly increase defense capabilities against impending threats. This really is an exciting time for the field of biosurveillance and at ECBC. We're very excited to be one of the leaders in this mission."