Biosafety and the Global Health Security Agenda

Biosafety and the Global Health Security Agenda

The Elizabeth R Griffin Research Foundation (ERGF) is a US-based, 501c3 non-profit foundation established in 1999 by the family of Elizabeth “Beth” Griffin who died in 1997 as a result of an occupational exposure to B virus (Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1) that occurred while she was a non-human primate worker at Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta, GA. From this tragic incident, the Foundation set out with a “No more Beth Griffin tragedies” mission that was originally focused on occupational health and safety in the non-human primate research community.

Through collaborations with the Association of Primate Veterinarians, American College for Laboratory Animal Medicine, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, ERGF helped produce educational material and academic research to address these issues. A significant outcome is that almost all NHP workers in much of the world now carry “Beth Cards” that provide response instructions to both those exposed as well as medical care providers.

The SARS outbreak in 2003 triggered a global response that included a massive expansion of laboratory and field facilities where exposures to biological agents carried high risks. At the encouragement of the success of our collaborative efforts in the NHP community, we were encouraged to broaden our scope of interest into biosafety and biosecurity.

Again, the Foundation developed collaborative relationships with key organizations and government agencies and ministries to bring the important issues of the management of biological risks to the forefront in North America. Our successes here led to our being invited to participate in numerous international programs.

Our successes built on collaboration led to our invitation to the genesis of the Global Health Security Agenda in February, 2014. Our immediate attachment was to the biosafety / biosecurity Action Package, but our strong advocacy of the program was linked to the total-community and whole-of-government approach promoted in the GHSA.

Through the GHSA, the Foundation became engaged in helping construct the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium (GHSAC).  Beginning with just a few interested non-government entities, GHSAC has grown to include over 150 people representing over 100 non-government entities that are involved across the Prevent – Detect – Respond spectrum of the GHSA Action Packages. GHSAC serves as the primary conduit of information between the non-government sector and the over 50 countries engaged in the GHSAC.