February 5, 2019

PNNL Researchers Unveil Updated Biodefense Analysis Tool


PNNL scientists today unveiled an updated tool designed to help stakeholders assess the nation's preparedness for biological-based dangers, also known as biothreats. PNNL's efforts are highlighted today in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The updated "Biodefense Policy Landscape Analysis Tool," known as B-PLAT 2.0, captures and presents a slew of information about U.S. efforts to protect its citizens and others around the world from threats as diverse as the plague, diseases like Ebola, threats from terrorists, potential risks to water and food supplies, and myriad other concerns.

The tool created by PNNL scientists Rachel Bartholomew and Kristin Omberg makes it clear that there is no shortage of effort by the nation's government to protect its citizens. The tool incorporates information from biodefense-related policy documents, including presidential directives and U.S. Code, which spell out more than 400 duties and responsibilities on the part of 22 federal departments and agencies in the realm of biodefense.

B-PLAT 2.0 pulls all the information into one place and offers a method to visualize the mass of information with ease. For instance, a user can quickly see which agencies are responsible for certain actions that ensure food security. Or, the user can sort which directives and sections of code have been enacted to protect against potential terrorist attacks or mitigate the effects of infectious disease through the development of medical countermeasures.

The thousands of combinations are easily sorted with clickable boxes and links that enable a user to focus on a topic of interest and then sort the strands of relevant information. Its creators affectionately call B-PLAT 2.0 "the spaghetti monster" due to the information strands, resembling spaghetti, that link areas of concern, agencies, code and directives, and other information. The tool also offers a storehouse of details that are brought forth when a user hovers the cursor over a topic of interest.

In their piece in the Bulletin, Bartholomew and Omberg discuss the National Biodefense Strategy and some of the history that resulted in their current efforts. Bartholomew and Omberg hope that B-PLAT 2.0 helps the nation's Biodefense Steering Committee meet its March 2019 deadline to coordinate hundreds of biodefense responsibilities assigned to so many governmental bodies. They note that the tool now includes information on 414 discrete responsibilities.

"Our nation has done a great deal to protect its citizens from biothreats. B-PLAT 2.0 offers a user-friendly approach to understand how efforts to protect our citizens are aligned and coordinated and to help plan for the future," said Bartholomew.

The tool is free to use and available to scientists, government officials and others interested in protecting people from biological-based threats. Click here to explore B-PLAT 2.0 directly.


About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://www.energy.gov/science/. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: February 5, 2019