• BiodefensesBolstering counter-WMD capabilities in the southeast Europe and Black Sea regions

    The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) DIABLO SHIELD training event and field exercise took place in Tblisi, Georgia, 24-28 April. DIABLO SHIELD emphasizes countering biological threats, and is part of the U.S. European Command’s (USEUCOM) Diablo Pathways series of engagements that support the development of counter-WMD capabilities in the southeast Europe and Black Sea regions.

  • Layered defenseStacking countermeasures for layered defense against chemical, biological threats

    Just as we must protect computer systems against assaults in the form of viruses and trojans in the cyber world, we must protect our soldiers from a multitude of chemical and biological threats on the battlefield. No one countermeasure can mitigate every threat, which is why the Joint Science and Technology Office at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is developing a portfolio of novel capabilities and medical countermeasures to protect our troops.

  • BiodefenseLawmaker criticizes closure of biodefense lab

    President Trump’s FY2018 budget, released last week, zeroes out funding for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) in Frederick, Maryland and calls for its closure. NBACC, operated by DHS, supports preparedness planning, intelligence assessments and bio-forensic analysis. The lab often assists the FBI in investigating bioterrorism and bio-crime and employs over 180 people.

  • AnthraxUrban legend: WWI-era “viable” anthrax strain was, in fact, much younger standard laboratory strain

    A team of international researchers has found that a strain of anthrax-causing bacterium thought to have been viable eighty years after a thwarted First World War espionage attack, was, in reality, a much younger standard laboratory strain. The team speculates that the mix-up was due to commonplace laboratory contamination. In 1917, German spy Baron Otto von Rosen was caught in Norway possessing lumps of sugar embedded with glass capillaries filled with a liquid holding spores of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. He was suspected of plotting to feed the sugar lumps, which contained the oldest known isolates of B. anthracis, to the reindeer that pulled transports of munitions and foods across the frozen Arctic tundra for the Allied forces.

  • AnthraxInternational anthrax conference will explore latest scientific research findings

    Scientists and researchers from all over the world who work on Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, and B. cereus and B. thuringiensis, two closely related bacillus species, will be heading to Victoria, British Columbia, in October for the international conference known as “Bacillus ACT.” The bi-annual conference, set for 1-5 October, will allow members of the scientific community to present their work and meet more than 200 global peers.

  • BioterrorismBioterrorists, using genetic editing, could kill more than 30 million people: Bill Gates

    A bioterrorist attack could kill thirty million people — and such an attack is becoming more likely because it has become much easier to create – or “design” — deadly pathogens and spread them. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, speaking in London, said that an outbreak of a lethal respiratory virus like smallpox would be more dangerous than even a nuclear attack. Anyone can now purchase chemistry kits which allow genetic editing, and do so online for under $150.

  • BioterrorismTerrorists could kill 30 million people within a year using bioweapons: Bill Gates

    Bill Gates, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, compared the dangers to nuclear war and bioterrorism. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus, or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” he said. “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than thirty million people in less than a year.”

  • Dual-use R&DDual-use sciene, technological innovation

    By Nicholas G. Evans and Aerin Commins

    Scientific research can change our lives for the better, but it also presents risks – either through deliberate misuse or accident. Think about studying deadly pathogens; that’s how we can learn how to successfully ward them off, but it can be a safety issue too, as when CDC workers were exposed to anthrax in 2014 after an incomplete laboratory procedure left spores of the bacterium alive. Making decisions about the security implications of science and technology can be complicated. That’s why scientists and policymakers need clarity on the dual-use distinction to help consider our options.

  • AgroterrorismBioterrorism poses catastrophic threat to U.S. agriculture

    The agriculture sector in the U.S. is a $1 trillion business and employs approximately 9.2 percent of American workers. In 2012, domestic animal agriculture – livestock and poultry production – generated approximately 1.8 million jobs, $346 billion in total economic output and $60 billion in household income. Experts are calling better understanding of the threats to agriculture posed by biological agents which can inflict catastrophic consequences on the U.S. population and economy.

  • Public healthOld antibiotics, new tools to combat bio agents

    More than 100 antibiotic compounds have been discovered since Alexander Fleming invented penicillin in 1928, but none within the past thirty years. Now a joint venture is exploring a new class of tetracycline that could combat biological threats to our warfighters.

  • BioterrorismLawmakers want to know more about Ricin mix-up

    Members of the Committee on Homeland Security sent a letter on 23 December to FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, demanding answers on how many years had first responders unknowingly trained with toxic Ricin at Anniston’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). In a three-page letter, members of the committee demanded answers for  twelve questions, addressing the issue of how lethal toxin was used and the agency’s response once it found out about the mix-up.

  • Biological emergenciesBiological emergences: Incremental progress not enough

    While acknowledging some positive efforts over the past year by the White House and Congress, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense says the incremental progress is not enough to defend against biological emergencies, let alone catastrophic events. The report, Biodefense Indicators – One Year Later, Events Outpacing Federal Efforts to Defend the Nation, states that while the biological threat is real and continues to grow, our nation remains woefully under-prepared for dangerous biological incidents.

  • Biological emergenciesDeveloping the National Livestock Readiness Program

    The National Agricultural Biosecurity Center has received $331,118 from the Department of Homeland Security through its Basic Ordering Agreement with K-State to develop the National Livestock Readiness Program. The project, with its initial deliverables completed by September 2017, will provide a clearinghouse for planning, training, and knowledge products to help state and local entities prepare for transboundary livestock disease outbreaks.

  • AnthraxEmergent BioSolutions to supply up to $1 billion of anthrax vaccine to the Strategic National Stockpile

    Emergent BioSolutions signed follow-on contract with CDC valued at up to $911 million to supply to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) approximately 29.4 million doses of BioThrax through September 2021. BARDA issued notice of intent to separately procure approximately $100 million of BioThrax for the SNS over twenty-four months from contract award, which is expected in 1H 2017. These actions, together with the recently awarded BARDA contract for NuThrax, reflect the U.S. government’s intention to transition the stockpile of anthrax vaccines from BioThrax to NuThrax.

  • 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.