• BiosecurityImproving biosafety, biosecurity in West Africa

    The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and United States Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (DTRA/SCC-WMD) have selected CH2M to lead efforts in West Africa to broaden its Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) on the African continent and reduce the threat of infectious diseases. The CBEP, developed by the Department of Defense to address global health security issues, was used in 2014 to support international efforts to combat the Ebola virus outbreak and other threats to global health security.

  • Gene drivesCaution about emerging technologies is compatible with science

    Precautionary approaches to governance of emerging technology, which call for constraints on the use of technology whose potential harms and other outcomes are highly uncertain, are often criticized for reflecting “risk panics,” but precaution can be consistent with support for science.

  • view counter
  • BiodefenseFood for thought: Including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense

    From agriculture to animal health, Kansas State University has been on the forefront of the national discussion in bio/agrodefense since it published the Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program — also known as “The Big Purple Book” — in 1999. Recently, the university co-hosted an event at the Bipartisan Policy Center, highlighted the threat of bio/agroterrorism and the importance of including agriculture in biosecurity and biodefense.

  • BiodefenseNew genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant bioterrorism agent identified

    Researchers have identified new genetic mutations in antibiotic-resistant Francisella tularensis bacteria that could be used in a bioterrorist attack. The mutations confer resistance to ciprofloxacin (Cipro), one of the most common antibiotic treatments. F. tularensis is a Category A Select Agent, a designation for organisms and toxins that pose the greatest risk to public health and safety, such as the microbes that cause anthrax and plague.

  • BioterrorismFunding for broad spectrum prophylaxis, treatment for bioterrorism threats

    The U.K. Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has received funding of up to $6.9 million from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for a program entitled “Inhalational ciprofloxacin for improved protection against biowarfare agents.” The inhalational ciprofloxacin formulations used in this program are Aradigm’s proprietary investigational drugs Pulmaquin and Lipoquin.

  • BioterrorismNew candidate vaccines against the plague show promise

    The plague of Black Death infamy has had the power to strike fear in people since the Middle Ages — and for good reason. Once someone begins to show symptoms, the disease progresses very quickly and is almost 100 percent fatal without prompt treatment. Antibiotic-resistant Y. pestis strains have been isolated from plague patients and can be engineered for use as a bioweapon. Researchers have developed new potential vaccines that protect animals against the bacteria that causes the deadly plague.

  • African securityAssessing the risk from Africa as Libya loses its chemical weapons

    By Scott Firsing

    Libya’s remaining chemical weapons left over from the Gaddafi regime are now being safely disposed of in a German facility. This eliminates the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. But can these same hands acquire weapons of mass destruction from the rest of Africa? The disposal of Libya’s chemical weapons has lowered the risk of weapons of mass destruction in Africa. But we have seen how far non-state actors are willing to go to either produce or steal such weapons. For example, analysts envision militants known as “suicide infectors” visiting an area with an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola purposely to infect themselves and then using air travel to carry out the attack. Reports from 2009 show forty al-Qaeda linked militants being killed by the plague at a training camp in Algeria. There were claims that they were developing the disease as a weapon. The threat WMD pose cannot be ignored. African countries, with help from bilateral partners and the international community, have broadened their nonproliferation focus. They will need to keep doing so if the goal is effectively to counter this threat.

  • BiohackingBuilding a biosafety and biosecurity toolkit for a safer gene editing research

    A new DARPA program could help unlock the potential of advanced gene editing technologies by developing a set of tools to address potential risks of this rapidly advancing field. The Safe Genes program envisions addressing key safety gaps by using those tools to restrict or reverse the propagation of engineered genetic constructs. Safe Genes was inspired in part by recent advances in the field of “gene drives,” which can alter the genetic character of a population of organisms by ensuring that certain edited genetic traits are passed down to almost every individual in subsequent generations.

  • BiohackingGrowing concern about amateur “biohackers” creating biological weapons

    American and European security agencies have been increasingly focusing on the risk that “biohackers” – scientists who use genome-editing techniques to change life forms by increasing or decreasing the function of genes — could develop biological weapons or other dangerous biological substances. The problem is not only – or even mostly – with the work of professional scientists. Rather, the real danger lies with amateur scientists around the world who have started to use gene-editing techniques after the tools became cheap and readily available.

  • BiohackingKeeping pace with the fast-developing science of gene drives

    The emerging science of gene drives is drawing attention for its potential to help with critical health issues such as mosquito-borne diseases and environmental concerns such as agricultural pests and invasive species. At its most basic, a gene drive operates outside the traditional realm of genetics, in which an offspring has a 50-50 chance of inheriting a trait from one of its parents. A gene drive introduces a trait that will spread — or drive — through a population. “The science of gene drives is moving very fast,” says an expert. “[O]ur ability to assess the risks of gene drives, to oversee them with regulatory agencies, and to have a public discussion around gene drives is falling behind the science — We don’t want to wait until we have the technology in front of us to have discussions about regulation, oversight, ethics, and engagement.”

  • WMDFBI’s WMD Directorate marks its first decade

    If you can imagine a disaster involving explosives or the release of nuclear, biological, chemical, or radioactive material, there is a pretty good chance a group of subject-matter experts within the FBI has built an elaborate scenario around it and tested how well emergency responders face up to it. It is the main jobs of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate — to imagine worst-case scenarios and then devise ways to prevent and prepare for them. The Directorate was created ten years ago, on 26 July 2006.

  • DecontaminationUsing gels for biological decontamination

    Removing chemical, biological, radiological, and toxic contaminants from a range of surface types could be as easy as peeling off a sticker thanks to research conducted by scientists at the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and industry partner CBI Polymer.The researchers explored how a HydroGel can be modified to decontaminate surfaces contaminated with biological agents.

  • AnthraxAnthrax capsule vaccine completely protects monkeys from lethal inhalational anthrax

    Vaccination with the anthrax capsule — a naturally occurring component of the bacterium that causes the disease — completely protected monkeys from lethal anthrax infection, according to a new study. These results indicate that anthrax capsule is a highly effective vaccine component that should be considered for incorporation in future generation anthrax vaccines.

  • AnthraxFDA completes pre-approval inspection of Emergent BioSolutions’ anthrax vaccine manufacturing facility

    Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. last week announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had completed its Pre-Approval Inspection (PAI) of Building 55, the company’s facility for large-scale manufacturing of BioThrax (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed).

  • BioterrorismTesting NYC subway biodefenses

    Researchers took to the New York City subway system 9-13 May to study how a surrogate for a biological agent, such as anthrax, might disperse throughout the nation’s largest rapid transit system as a result of a terrorist attack or an accidental release. The study is part of a five-year DHS project called Underground Transport Restoration (UTR) and was conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.