October 18, 2020
HJF supports the Molecular Diagnostics Department at the Biological Defense Research Directorate, which serves as a national resource providing testing and analysis for the presence of potential biological hazards. Part of the Naval Medical Research Center, the Directorate focuses on how to defend against the threat of biological and chemical warfare by conducting health and medical research, development, testing, evaluation, and surveillance to enhance deployment readiness of Department of Defense personnel worldwide.
The Molecular Diagnostics Department serves as a subject matter expert on biological warfare widely regarded throughout the DoD and other U.S. government agencies. As part of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was approached by the Defense Biological Product Assurance Office, which is part of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense and whose mission is to develop medical and physical countermeasures to protect the warfighter from chemical and biological threats.
The Directorate also focused on production of the CDC assays and evaluation of the logistics required, including providing sample extraction kits, viral transport medium production, and ancillary Taq Polymerase kits. Emphasis was changed to adapting the primer/probe sets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the standard formulation currently produced by the facility reducing the logistical burden and providing reagents in a format more familiar to current customers of the Defense Biological Product Assurance Office.
The Directorate is the sole DoD real time reagent production facility for PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which is a key component of COVID-19 detection kits. Its production facility has functioned since 2006. The reagents are used daily by the DoD (Pentagon Force Protection Agency, National Guard units, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, National Guard units, and other DoD organizations), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and DHS BioWatch. Annually, the Molecular Diagnostics Department produces in excess of 3.5 million reactions resulting in cost savings to the U.S. government of at least $44 million versus commercial vendors. The reagents support research and development activities in addition daily monitoring programs to detect the presence of biological warfare agents in environmental aerosol samples.