AHRQ Telework Program Evaluation

AHRQ Telework Program Evaluation

AHRQ Telework Program Evaluation

Overview

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) commissioned Gryphon Scientific to conduct an evaluation of its telework program aiming to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program, examine its compliance with Federal and departmental policies, and gauge its effectiveness in meeting the needs of the agency, its employees and its stakeholders.

Methods

Using a multi-faceted evaluation, Gryphon addressed the effect of remote work on productivity, annual leave usage, retention, commute, work-life balance, and colleagueship. The final evaluation included approaches to improve or strengthen AHRQ’s teleworking policies. The evaluation consisted of the following components:

    • A benchmarking study to identify key success factors and characteristics of a model program by reviewing the literature as well as telework practices within two other federal agencies
    • The design, fielding, and analysis of an online survey of AHRQ employee satisfaction
    • An assessment of compliance with security requirements through discussions with AHRQ’s Chief Information Security Officer
    • A report on interviews with AHRQ supervisors
    • A cost analysis based on responses to the employee survey and secondary data provided by AHRQ
    • Overall findings and recommendations for strengthening AHRQ’s program

Results

Gryphon provided AHRQ with evidence that their program saved the agency and its employees money, and, overall, the availability of teleworking resulted in a happier and more productive workforce. The final report included recommendations for further strengthening AHRQ’s teleworking program.

Gryphon Scientists Analyze the Accelerating Pace of Biotechnology Democratization in Nature Biotechnology

Gryphon Scientists Analyze the Accelerating Pace of Biotechnology Democratization in Nature Biotechnology

Gryphon Scientists Analyze the Accelerating Pace of Biotechnology Democratization in Nature Biotechnology

As biotechnologies mature from activities requiring substantial educational and financial investments into those requiring far less resources, the technologies can more readily be misused to cause harm. Understanding the speed at which new biotechnologies become “democratized” is important for developing regulatory and security policies and practices that safeguard against accidental or intentional misuse without unduly hampering cutting-edge research. In this publication from Nature Biotechnology, Gryphon researchers use a novel analytical method to analyze the pace of advancement of biotechnologies. Gryphon’s analysis suggests that novel biotechnologies can become democratized – that is, accessible to many individuals with relatively low levels of technical skill and financial resources – in less than 4.5 years from their discovery and may do so in less than 3.5 years by the end of the next decade. These results suggest that ongoing review of the security risks associated with biotechnologies is needed to enable proactive development of mitigation policies and oversight systems.

Gryphon leads effort to develop a new Incident Response Framework for HHS/ASPR

Gryphon Leads Effort to Develop a New Incident Response Framework for HHS/ASPR

Gryphon Leads Effort to Develop a New Incident Response Framework for HHS/ASPR

Gryphon Scientific provided consultant support to lead the development of ASPR’s new Incident Response Framework. This Framework describes the organizational structure, functional roles and responsibilities, and operational concepts that form part of the ASPR organization’s overarching approach to all-hazards incident response and special event preparedness. As such, it forms the basis from which HHS/ASPR personnel, augmentees, and agency representatives internal and external to HHS will execute their assigned missions at the headquarters and field levels across the life-cycle of an incident or special event. This Framework also is intended to inform the development of various standard operating procedures (SOPs), incident reporting templates, position descriptions, position task books (PTBs), qualification and training programs, etc., corresponding to and aligning with the various coordinating structures identified in the document.

Assessing the Role of U.S. and Other Foreign Engagement in China’s Biotechnology Development

Assessing the Role of U.S. and Other Foreign Engagement in China's Biotechnology Development

Overview

In the past decade, China’s biotechnology industry has grown tremendously, fueled by Chinese government policies promoting the biotechnology sector as a driver of economic growth and increased foreign interaction with the U.S. and other countries. Gryphon Scientific, in partnership with Rhodium Group, performed an extensive investigation of China’s biotechnology industry and the role of U.S. companies in its development to assess the economic and security implications for the U.S. Our report provides a comprehensive look at a growing power in the global biotechnology industry and includes recommendations for specific steps to ensure continued vitality of the U.S. biotechnology industry and the security of our country.

In July 2019, Dr. Mark Kazmierczak provided expert testimony for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on exploring U.S. reliance on China's biotechnology and pharmaceutical products. Dr. Kazmierczak briefed the Commission on key findings and recommendations from Gryphon's report and answered questions on how China's advances in biotechnology applications in healthcare and other industries may affect the U.S. economy and national security.

Motivation

In the past decade, Chinese policy has placed an emphasis on the importance of biotechnology to the future economic growth of the country, and its biotechnology industry has seen tremendous growth. Much of this growth has come through increased foreign interaction with the U.S. and other countries, through investment, partnerships, and other business, scientific, and academic relationships. To identify potential economic and security ramifications to the U.S., we sought to identify what strategies Chinese biotechnology companies are using to acquire new technologies and relevant data, including U.S. healthcare-related data, and what increased competition from China could mean for the U.S. biotechnology industry.

Methods

Our approach was multi-faceted and drew on diverse data sources. Open source information was used to assess the current capabilities of China’s biotechnology industry and its likely future direction. We spoke to entrepreneurs and investors in the U.S. biotechnology industry to understand the current relationships between the two countries and the benefits and risks that collaboration and partnership may bring. Through our partner, Rhodium Group, we identified and analyzed China-based investments into U.S. biotechnology companies. Through analysis of these data streams, we assessed the potential risks to U.S. economic and national security and identified avenues through which the U.S. could secure its interests.

Results

China’s biotechnology prowess is growing at a tremendous rate, supported by policies and investments at the national and local levels. Our report describes the technologies and capabilities of Chinese biotechnology companies, their goals for growth and development, and the methods used to achieve them. With these activities in mind, an honest and objective look at the risks and benefits of growing interdependence of the U.S. and China follows, with recommendations for specific steps that could be taken to ensure continued vitality of the U.S. biotechnology industry and the security of our country.

Resources

The public report, “China’s Biotechnology Development: The Role of U.S. and Other Foreign Engagement,” was released on February 14, 2019.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission testimony, “Exploring the Growing Reliance on China’s Biotech and Pharmaceutical Products,” was given on July 31, 2019.

Dual Use Risk Analysis Training Materials for Malaysian Life Scientists

Dual Use Risk Analysis Training Materials for Malaysian Life Scientists

Overview

These dual use case study materials were developed for use in dual use risk analysis training activities, and are free to modify and distribute under a Creative Commons License. Gryphon developed the materials in collaboration with Malaysia’s Science and Technology Research Institute for Defence (STRIDE), adapted from materials originally developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Gautham Venugopalan
  • PROJECT PARTNERS | Nancy Connell, Hopkins Center for Health Security; Malaysian Science and Technology Research Institute for Defence

Training Materials for Practical Implementation of Laboratory Biosafety, Biosecurity, and Biorisk Management

Training Materials for Practical Implementation of Laboratory Biosafety, Biosecurity, and Biorisk Management

Overview

Experts from Gryphon Scientific, Moroccan Biosafety Association, Batna University I, American University of Beirut, and Royal Scientific Society of Jordan conducted a train-the-trainer event that taught participants active learning concepts and approaches for teaching their colleagues and students about laboratory biosafety and biosecurity. The activities conducted during the training event simultaneously served to train participants to consider practical application of laboratory biosafety and biosecurity concepts, and to illustrate how different types of immersive, interactive activities can be used in training. The focus and materials of the training program built on gaps identified after thorough evaluation of the research landscape, governance on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, and past and current training and bioengagement activities in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, and Lebanon. The training materials are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) and are posted below.

  • GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Gautham Venugopalan
  • FORMER GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Kavita Berger (Director, Board on Life Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
  • TRAINING TEAM | Nisreen Al-Hmoud, Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, Halima Benbouza, Batna University I, Khalid Temsamani, Moroccan Biological Safety Association, Elias Rahal, American University of Beirut

Mock Review Materials

A scenario-based approach to educate scientists on assessing risks and benefits of research.

Table Top Exercises

A scenario-based simulation exercise to train scientists in identifying gaps and vulnerabilities in their laboratories and biorisk management practices for addressing identified gaps and vulnerabilities.

Training Game

An interactive training game for scientists to learn about risks associated with laboratory biosafety and biosecurity.

Sticky Note Exercise

An interactive exercise to encourage identification of core laboratory biosafety and biosecurity concepts.

Middle East and North Africa Community of Practice for Biological and Chemical Safety and Security

Middle East and North Africa Community of Practice for Biological and Chemical Safety and Security

For more than 10 years, laboratory biosafety and biosecurity workshops and training programs have been conducted in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Despite these efforts, best practices and training materials often are not shared among the MENA scientific and health sectors. To address this issue, Gryphon Scientific and the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan are leading an effort to promote information-sharing about best practices and training materials for laboratory safety, biosecurity, and biorisk management in the region through a MENA Region Community of Practice for Biological and Chemical Safety and Security.

Middle East and South Asia Conference on Epigenetics and Genomics of Infectious Diseases

Middle East and South Asia Conference on Epigenetics and Genomics of Infectious Diseases

Overview

In 2016, the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan and Gryphon Scientific jointly organized a regional conference on epigenetics and genomics of infectious diseases in cooperation with the DTRA Cooperative Biological Engagement Program and Metabiota. This conference provided scientists throughout the region with opportunities to discuss regional and international studies involving genomic and/or epigenetic effects on host-pathogen interactions, and to explore associated laboratory biosecurity and biosafety considerations. In addition, the conference allowed attendees to interact with each other, fostering new scientific partnerships.

    • PROJECT PARTNERS | Gryphon Scientific, Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, Metabiota
    • GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Corey Meyer, Dr. Gautham VenugopalanDr. Froggi Jackson
    • FORMER GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Kavita Berger (Director, Board on Life Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
    • FUNDER | DTRA Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (Gryphon Scientific through Prime Contractor Metabiota) and Office of Naval Research Global (Royal Scientific Society of Jordan)

Roadmap for Implementing Biosecurity and Biodefense Policy in the United States

Roadmap for Implementing Biosecurity and Biodefense Policy in the United States

Overview

The U.S. policy landscape for countering biological threats is split into two main groups: 1) biosecurity, which specifically focuses on preventing theft, diversion, or deliberate malicious use of biological sciences knowledge, skills, materials, and technologies to cause harm; and 2) biodefense, which involves the development of capabilities and knowledge to assess, detect, monitor, respond to, and attribute biological threats. This project involved the first ever systems-based analysis of the entire U.S. biosecurity and biodefense policy landscape, which enabled greater understanding of the functional relationships between policies as of 2017. These analyses, along with reviews of methodologies for measuring policy implementation and historical case studies to better understand factors that lead to opportunity costs, informed the development of a roadmap for implementing biosecurity and biodefense policies that leverages science and technology advances and minimizes security risks. In addition to the roadmap, this study presents two analytic frameworks for evaluating policy implementation and analyzing opportunity costs.

    • GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Corey MeyerDr. Emily Billings
    • FORMER GRYPHON STAFF | Dr. Kavita Berger (Director, Board on Life Sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
    • PROJECT PARTNERS | Dr. Diane DiEuliis (National Defense University), Dr. Venkat Rao (Parsons)
    • FUNDER | U.S. Air Force Academy and Defense Threat Reduction Agency: Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction

Resources

Relational map of U.S. biosecurity and biodefense policy by policy subject

Figure 1. This figure shows a relational map of U.S. biosecurity and biodefense policy by policy subject. Each white circle is a unique U.S. Code, international agreement or partnership, Executive or agency-level policy, program activity (if not already associated with a U.S. Code, international partnership, or agency-level policy), guidance, or guidelines. The colored circles signify subject area. The size of the nodes reflects the number of policies associated with each subject area and the distance between nodes reflects the degree to which policies are linked based on the underlying relational database. The lines reflect direct relationships between policies and subject areas based only on existing policies before 2018. This map does not reflect associations of subject area based on conceptual similarities, but rather associations by direct links between existing policies.

Schematic Map of U.S. Biosecurity and Biodefense Policies to U.S. Biodefense Objectives

Figure 2. These objectives were derived from combining the core components of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 10/Biodefense for the 21st Century, Presidential Policy Directive 2/National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, and other relevant policies. The science and technology categories (blue text) were derived from policy documents and funding announcements for research and development for biodefense. Similarly, the policy scope was derived from policy documents and discourse over the past 18 years.

Potential indirect effects of U.S. biosecurity and biodefense policies on U.S. biodefense objectives

Figure 3. This figure shows the potential indirect effects of U.S. biosecurity and biodefense policies on U.S. biodefense objectives. Each circle is a unique U.S. Code, international agreement or partnership, Executive or agency-level policy, program activity (if not already associated with a U.S. Code, international partnership, or agency-level policy), guidance, or guidelines. The white circles represent the direct biodefense objectives (columns) that policies in each of the subject area categories (rows) addresses. The colored circles indicate possible indirect effects of the policies in the subject area categories to biodefense objectives. The green circles indicate capability-building activities. The pink circles indicate requirements, the red circles indicate regulations, and the burgundy circles indicate restrictions, all of which seek to promote biosecurity and biosafety activities. The blue circles are policies that criminalize development and/or use of biological weapons or their delivery systems. Horizontal comparisons between the purpose of a policy (i.e., direct biodefense objective) and the potential indirect effects of a policy should be made.

The Custom Synthetic Nucleic Acid Industry and Biosecurity: A Systems Analysis

The Custom Synthetic Nucleic Acid Industry and Biosecurity: A Systems Analysis

Overview

Synthetic DNA can be used by researchers to acquire natural genes without the living source, enabling researchers to study the function of those genes without isolating them from a natural source. However, in the hands of a malicious actor, the technology could be used to acquire a harmful pathogen or toxin, creating a biosecurity risk. At the time our study was conducted in 2007, experts disagreed whether the risk warranted additional oversight of the custom, synthetic DNA industry (CSNA).

Background

While some experts felt that industry posed a great biosecurity risk and therefore regulation was necessary, other experts held that the risk of misuse was low and that the potential harms of regulation, such as lost innovation or stunted economic growth, would outweigh the benefits. Among those calling for regulation, a range of oversight and governance mechanisms were proposed, including licensing customers, screening DNA sequences, or simply increased record-keeping. Gryphon conducted a three-month study to investigate the trade-offs associated with options for reducing the biosecurity risks associated with the CSNA industry. We developed recommendations  on how the federal government could best help secure the industry.

Methods

Gryphon’s recommendations were based on data gathered from a thorough review of the scientific literature as well as interviews with scientists who use CSNAs in their research and companies who produce CSNAs. Scientific literature was reviewed to understand how CSNAs could be misused, as well as the prevailing thoughts on biosecurity and the CSNA industry. Additionally, regulations, laws, and guidelines relevant to the oversight of the CSNA industry were reviewed. Interviews were conducted with users of synthetic DNA to understand how delays in ordering CSNA, and any financial costs associated with regulation, would affect their work. Interviews were also conducted with companies producing synthetic DNA—including interviews with all of the largest suppliers representing 85% of the total industry value. Following data collection, a variety of regulatory options were evaluated ranging from customer licensing to sequence screening.

 Results

Based on the data we collected, Gryphon developed several oversight options, highlighting the costs and benefits of each option, to inform policymakers on how to proceed. Each option was given ratings in a variety of categories such as burden to market, cost, and effectiveness for biosecurity, to allow our client to understand the trade-offs associated with each option. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) later developed our recommendations into official guidance to providers of synthetic DNA. The industry later formed a voluntary industry group, the International Gene Synthesis Consortium, who used the HHS guidelines as a starting point and developed further guidance with which all member companies must comply as a condition of joining the group.

 Resources

The Custom Synthetic Nucleic Acid Industry and Biosecurity: A Systems Analysis report was released in December 2007 for The Department of Homeland Security: Science and Technology Directorate .