Texas A&M’s Brett Giroir will lead Ebola task force in Texas

Rick Perry, Brett Giroir,The Eagle – by Sam Peshek

The man in charge of a task force to ensure the state appropriately responds to infectious diseases like the Ebola virus said Monday that planning to contain or prevent future outbreaks of pandemic diseases and viruses is already underway.

“The game plan is to do a quick assessment of the current Ebola case and the response to it and make recommendations that can be helpful in short and long terms,” Texas A&M Health Science Center CEO Brett Giroir said. “Then we want to outline and engage the major topic areas that are important to the Ebola response and other responses in the future.”  

Gov. Rick Perry announced in Austin on Monday the creation of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, which Giroir will oversee.

The task force is composed of 14 physicians and academics from across the state, including three Texas A&M academics and administrators. Texas A&M Health Science Center Public Health Preparedness and Response Vice President Dr. Gerald Parker will serve as deputy director of the task force; Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory Director Tammy Beckham and HSC professor of epidemiology Scott Lillibridge will work with Giroir to develop a long-term plan to respond to potential pandemic disease outbreaks.

The task force will present written reports on its findings and recommendations to the governor and Legislature by Dec. 1, with an additional report due Feb. 1.

“Preparedness requires clear, decisive, and prospective management aimed not only at rapid response, but also long-term solutions,” Giroir said at the press conference. “The timelines for containment of a serious outbreak mandate that we are fully prepared for the worst-case scenario, no matter what form that may take.”

Before assuming leadership of the Texas A&M Health Science Center in October 2013, Giroir served as of the Federal Government’s Defense Sciences Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2004-2008.

Perry said at the press conference that the task force will build on the existing State of Texas Emergency Management Plan.

“This task force will develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure Texas deals effectively with any potential outbreak,” he said.

Giroir told The Eagle Monday that he was asked to head the new task force while in Dallas helping to manage the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the man being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who contracted the disease while visiting Liberia and showed symptoms after his return.

Caliber Biotherapeutics, which is located in Bryan’s biocorridor and co-operated by Texas A&M, could also find itself on the front lines in the fight against the spread of Ebola.

Caliber produces an experimental drug called ZMapp, which is grown on tobacco plants at the facility. The drug developed by San Diego company Mapp Biopharmaceutical was used to help two American aid workers successfully recover in Atlanta after contracting Ebola in Liberia.

Production of the drug is in its infancy at Caliber and would not be ready to immediately be used on the more than 7,000 patients in Africa infected with the disease.

Giroir said Caliber has been in conversations with the U.S. government about producing the experimental serum.

“We are ready to begin production should the government say, ‘Go’,” Giroir said. “We are still talking only a few thousand doses per year, which is considerably more than the five or seven, which were initially available.”

Giroir commended the university for being a source for finding solutions to national issues.

“Texas A&M is in the middle of the conversation, and rightfully so,” he said. “We are here to serve the state and the nation whenever possible, and it’s an Aggie tradition to do so.”


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