Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border and veterinary surgeon, has welcomed the Government’s new Biological Security Strategy which will defend the UK from infectious disease outbreaks, antimicrobial resistance, and biological incidents and attacks. Nationally, the announcement is backed by an unprecedented £1.5 billion investment per year.
Having spent a period as a Veterinary Inspector involved in disease surveillance and control during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Crisis that devastated rural farming communities, Dr Hudson is a passionate advocate for bolstering biosecurity and has a resolute track record on the area. He publicly thanked Government for listening to his expert advice on the issue, in particular antimicrobial resistance and the prominence given to animal diseases.
Foremost in the new announcement is the new Biothreats Radar capable of scanning biological risks that pose a threat to the public. The Radar will be led by the Government’s National Situation Centre and will bring together data from across government, existing independent advisory committees and wider expert groups who analyse biological risks and trends. It will centralise the data and actively monitor this information to provide decision makers with a comprehensive picture of known and developing biological threats.
The major new Strategy sets out clear actions on biosecurity, building upon the framework set out by the Government in 2018, and has been updated to reflect lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. It outlines how the Government will tackle a wide range of threats head on - from bioterrorism to animal and plant diseases - by 2030. It can be found in full here: www.assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1161970/UK_Biological_Security_Strategy.pdf.
The Government is investing heavily in biological security, with spending now more than £1.5 billion each year. This funding underpins critical initiatives within the Strategy, including identifying new diseases, incentivising responsible innovation in the biosciences, and progressing the pledge made by G7 leaders in Carbis Bay in 2021, known as the “100 Days Mission”, to accelerate new vaccine development.
Dr Hudson has long campaigned on a range of biosecurity issues including antimicrobial resistance, the movement of animals across borders and animal disease outbreaks – like Avian Influenza which still affects the globe hugely.
Most recently Dr Hudson led a delegation of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee MPs to the Animal and Plant Health Agency headquarters in Weybridge. A key organisation in the detection of diseases, the organisation is included in the Biological Security Strategy but work needs to be done to keep the organisation resilient. Read more about that here: www.neilhudson.org.uk/news/veterinary-mp-dr-neil-hudson-leads-parliamentary-delegation-uk-biosecurity-hub
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said:
“In 2020 the UK and the world ground to a halt due to the devastating impact of covid-19. Now some three years later our Government is rightly and ambitiously learning from the past to tackle the threats of the future.
“Having spent time as a vet involved in disease surveillance and overseeing some of the devastating culls of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Crisis I’ve pushed hard for Government to boost our nation’s biosecurity. I am confident that this security strategy combined with more than £1.5 billion a year really helps deliver on that front.”
Alongside the Biothreats Radar, the Strategy sets out a number of commitments, including:
- Developing a National Biosurveillance Network to detect and monitor emerging biological threats to the UK
- Establishing a new UK Biosecurity Leadership Council, bringing together academic and industry leaders to help establish the UK as a world leader in responsible innovation
- Developing new UK-based microbial forensics tools and capabilities to support efforts to attribute biological incidents and deter the proliferation and use of biological weapons
- Working with industry to further UK efforts to achieve the 100 Days Mission - reducing the impact of future pandemics by making vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics available within 100 days of a future outbreak
- Formalising the leadership structures that oversee our biological security - including a lead minister who will report annually to Parliament
- Establishing a Biological Security Task Force in the Cabinet Office to coordinate UK-wide efforts on biological security, including exercising our response to future threats
Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, said:
“Covid was the biggest peacetime challenge in a century, and we must be diligent in preparing for future threats on this scale.
“This plan and our £1.5 billion investment per year puts us in a strong position to defeat the biological threats of tomorrow - from diseases to bioweapons and antimicrobial resistance. It’s a strong and ambitious approach: one that harnesses the sheer ingenuity of the UK’s researchers and scientists, and deploys our world-class crisis management capabilities to protect the people of the UK.”
Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed just how critical it is to have a coherent plan to both protect the UK from the increasingly complex range of biological risks and build on the UK’s strengths in vaccine research and development and life sciences. The new Biological Security Strategy will make an important contribution to our preparedness.”
Head of Biosecurity Policy at the Centre for Long-Term Resilience, Cassidy Nelson, commented:
“This much-needed strategy underscores the UK’s role as a global leader in enhancing resilience against biological risks. We welcome the goal to achieve resilience to the full spectrum of biological threats by 2030, and commend the use of built-in accountability measures to drive the implementation of the strategy. We now need sustained resourcing and prioritisation to achieve tangible improvements to the UK’s biosecurity capabilities on such an ambitious timeline.”
Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dame Jenny Harries, commented:
“The Biological Security Strategy and its commitment to developing a biosecure future means that we are in a strong position to respond to the threats of the future. Hand-in-hand with our partners in industry and academia, UKHSA will work across government to ensure that, through our commitment to achieving the 100 Days Mission, working with DEFRA to develop the National Biosurveillance Network and improving the UK’s pandemic preparedness, we keep the public safe.”