• BioweaponsPentagon accidentally ships live anthrax from Utah to labs in nine states

    The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday admitted it had accidentally shipped samples of a live anthrax spores – a potential bioweapon — across nine states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea. The Pentagon revealed what it described as an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis” from a DoD laboratory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah to labs in nine states. The mishap alarmed biosafety experts. “These events shouldn’t happen,” said one.

  • BiolabsGroundbreaking for new Biosafety Level 4 lab in Kansas

    Officials on Wednesday broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a $1.25 billion animal research facility near the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF will be the U.S. only Level 4 biosafety lab – a designation which means that the lab is secure enough to handle, and conduct research on, pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. Critics argue that locating the lab on the campus of KSU — in the heart of cattle country and the middle of Tornado Alley – would not be a good idea. NBAF will replace the aging biolab in Plum Island, New York.

  • BiolabsDHS S&T awards $834 million contract for construction of Manhattan, Kansas biolab

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the award of a contract for the final phase of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. The $834 million award by S&T’s procurement support partner, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), modifies the existing contract for McCarthy Mortensen NBAF Joint Venture, which was selected in 2009.

  • BioterrorismFormer agent sues FBI for retaliating against him for criticizing anthrax letters investigation

    Richard L. Lambert, a former senior FBI agent who, for four years, ran the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the FBI, accusing the agency of trying “to railroad the prosecution of [Bruce E.] Ivins” – the main suspect in the attacks — and, after Ivins’s 2008 suicide, of creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that Ivins was guilty. Lambert’s lawsuit also charges that the FBI and the Justice Department forced the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to dismiss him from his job as senior counterintelligence officer there in retaliation for his critique of the FBI’s conclusions in the anthrax case.

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  • BioterrorismHalting response to the 4 Ebola cases in U.S. valuable in preparations for bioterror attacks

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 10,000 people to date. There were only four Ebola diagnoses in the United States, one of which resulted in a death, but many public health officials say the U.S. response to in-country cases is a lesson on how government can prepare for a bioterror attack. Experts warn, though, thatthe United States is only prepared to confront a fraction of the fifteen potential biological agents that could be released in an attack, adding that many U.S. cities would be left scrambling to respond.

  • BioweaponsBioweapons do not offer the same deterrence value nukes offer: Experts

    Biological and nuclear weapons are both considered weapons of mass destruction, but only nuclear weapons currently serve as a deterrence. Some security experts have proposed the idea of nations adopting non-contagious biological weapons as a new form of deterrence. Critics note that the consequences of starting a global biological arms race are troubling enough, but the concept of replacing nuclear weapons with biological weapons as a form of deterrence is flawed for three main reasons: uncertainty of effects, availability of defenses, and the need for secrecy and surprise.

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  • BiolabsEscape of deadly bacteria at Louisiana bio-research facility raises concerns

    Weeks after federal and state officials launched an investigation into how the burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria which causes life-threatening disease Melioidosis, escaped a laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana, another investigation is now looking into how a veterinary clinic worker might have been exposed to the bacteria.Tulane was conducting vaccine research on the bacteria in a laboratory that requires a biosafety level 3 rating — - the second highest security level.

  • BiolabsNBAF-focused research already underway at K-State U, ahead of level-4 biolab opening

    Although the remaining funding for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, was recently finalized, work on the federal livestock research facility has continued to move forward in recent years — including Kansas State University conducting research which will help jump-start future operations at NBAF. NBAF will be DHS’s premier foreign animal disease research lab. It will research high-consequence livestock diseases that threaten animal and human health. The $1.25 billion lab will be on the northeast edge of K-State Manhattan, Kansas campus. NBAF is anticipated to begin operations in 2022 or 2023. Construction of the facility’s central utility plant is more than 90 percent complete.

  • DHS contractsDHS termination of bio-detection contract questioned

    In February 2014, six months before Silicon Valley startup NVS delivered the first prototypes of its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathogen detector to DHS, the department sent NVS’s chief executive Hans Fuernkranz a notice terminating the project. According to a 26 November 2014 draft audit report by DHS’s inspector general’s office, the decision was improperly made by a single agency official without supporting evidence and “against S&T [DHS Science & Technology Directorate] subject matter expert advice.”The official who made the decision to cancel the project had expressed concerns about the cost associated with the NVS contract, and said the contract was terminated because existing technologies could better meet the agency’s needs for confronting bio-threats. The auditors say, however, that they “did not identify evidence to substantiate any of the concerns.”

  • BioweaponsU.K. military last fall evaluated possible Ebola use by terrorists

    In October 2014, during the peak of the Ebola epidemic which terrorized citizens in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, security and terrorism analysts considered the probability of the Islamic State (ISIS) or other terror groups weaponizing Ebola and unleashing the virus in New York, Paris, London, or another major city. Many bioweapon researchers played down Martinez’s claim, saying terrorists looking to use Ebola as a weapon would encounter problems. Still, last fall, a U.K. military research unit was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organizations could use Ebola to attack Western targets.

  • BioterrorismDNA synthesis creates risk of resurrecting deadly viruses

    Scientists are warning that decades of public research on the sequencing of virus DNA are now posing unforeseen threats, as synthesis technologies advance to the point where individuals without expert knowledge may be able to reconstruct long dormant viruses using readily available maps. Diseases which have been extinct for many years may be resurrected by bioterrorists using mail-order DNA kits, with openly published sequence data as their guide. Among these, smallpox eradicated since 1980, could be reintroduced by using the 1994 gene mapping which was prepared in order better to understand why the disease was so deadly.

  • AnthraxSandia Labs anthrax detector wins national technology transfer award

    Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax bacteria, is found in soils worldwide and can cause serious, often fatal, illness in humans and animals. It can survive in harsh conditions for decades. Humans can be exposed through skin contact, inhalation of spores or eating contaminated meat. Currently, samples for testing must be propagated in a laboratory that uses specialized tools requiring a consistent power supply, something often unavailable in the developing world. Sandia National Laboratories won the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s (FLC) 2015 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer for a credit-card-size device that can detect bacteria that cause anthrax.

  • BioterrorismU.K. military examined feasibility, impact of terrorists using weaponized Ebola virus

    At the height of the Ebola crisis in West Africa last year, British military experts were asked to investigate the feasibility and likely impact of a an Ebola virus “weaponized” by terrorists. The report was prepared last October, and the U.K. Ministry of Defense on Friday released a heavily redacted version of it. The report identified three potential scenarios of terrorists exploiting the Ebola virus for bioterrorism. Details of the first scenario are completely blacked out, as are most of details of the second scenario, which is described as “logistically and technically challenging for a non-state group to undertake.” The third scenario, the details of which are also mostly redacted, was described as the “most technically challenging.”

  • BiosurveillanceNew biosurveillance Web site offers comprehensive information on outbreaks, responses

    A new online resource is providing a centralized portal for all news, information, resources, and research related to biosurveillance at the laboratory. Los Alamos Lab science team gathers a virtual biological toolkit for international disease outbreak response.

  • BioterrorismGenetic safety switches curb bioterror risk

    The potential threat of bioterrorism using man-made biological organisms could be curbed, thanks to a new method. Synthetic biologists — who can design and modify the DNA of living organisms to give them novel, useful functions — have devised a way of containing their products to help ensure that they work only as intended.