Although much emphasis is typically put on countering engineered Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) threats, the ongoing pandemic has demonstrated that countering naturally occurring biological threats should also be prioritized, as Mother Nature can arguably be considered as the world's worst terrorist.
Although engineered threats are oftentimes seen as exponentially greater than naturally occurring ones, the vigorous testing on the new COVID variants has shown the diabolical nature of threats engineered by Mother Nature. The lines between engineered and naturally occurring threats keep getting blurred, and differentiating between the two becomes even more complex. Pandemics are volatile and have no boundaries, and proper counter mechanisms can be hard to come by, whereas artificial "designer" biological and chemical threats are somewhat limited in scope, presumably easier to counter since we have an understanding of the imminent threat posed by these agents. Arguably, COVID-19 is by far one of the worst public health crises we have encountered. The early days were the most confusing, as the reporting out of China seemed to downplay what was headed our way. Remember back to December 2019 (nCOV19): We were asking ourselves: "Is this something like the flu?" We were being told, "most people don't know they have it or have super mild symptoms." But then, in what seemed like a flash, hospitals were being overrun with patients dying of what sounded like Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening lung injury that allows fluid to leak into the lungs. ARDS is something we are acutely aware of in the CBRN space, and for many of us, the mention of ARDS was a game-changer when it came to an understanding of what was headed our way.
Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel as new policies, strategies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Medical tools keep improving and evolving. New institutions are also likely to emerge on the scene, replacing old, fragmented ones. It is also crucial to look into drug development and repurposing approaches, e.g., the JPM CBRN Medical RAIDR- Repurposing Framework (RF), a process facilitating the rapid delivery of a medical countermeasure to the warfighter, or the general population, as needed, in order for us to find a way out of this pandemic and to be adequately prepared for the next one.
NCT Magazine: Thank you Dr. Wingerd for taking the time to do this interview, despite your busy schedule. Firstly, would you please introduce yourself and the JPM CBRN Medical for our readers?
Dr. Kevin Wingerd: I am the Chief Technology Officer for the Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Medical, part of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense. The JPEO-CBRND protects the Joint Force by providing medical countermeasures and defense equipment against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. Within the JPEO-CBRND, the JPM CBRN Medical facilitates the advanced development and acquisition of safe, effective, and innovative medical solutions and systems that combat and protect the warfighter from CBRN threats and emerging and infectious diseases. My job is to advise the Joint Project Manager and Deputy Joint Project Manager on all technical matters related to our mission space, which includes vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. Our products span the continuum of medical care: from prevention, to diagnosis, to treatment. I lead an incredible team, which includes our interagency liaison, two engineering interns, and 16 contracted experts in chemistry manufacturing and controls, non-clinical development, clinical development, and assays/diagnostics. This team serves the integrated project teams as advisors that aid in progressing the programs by assessing risks and helping to find solutions. The JPM CBRN Medical mission is to deliver safe, effective, and affordable medical solutions to counter CBRN threats for the Joint Force. It’s a difficult mission, but nevertheless, we deliver.
Read the full interview in NCT Magazine: https://nct-magazine.com/nct-magazine-may-2021/interview-with-dr-kevin-wingerd/