• ARGUMENT: Designer pathogensThe Genetic Engineering Genie Is Out of the Bottle

    Usually good for a conspiracy theory or two, President Donald Trump has suggested that the virus causing COVID-19 was either intentionally engineered or resulted from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Scientists have now conclusively proved that the virus was not designed in a lab, but Vivek Wadhwa writes that if “genetic engineering wasn’t behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one. With COVID-19 bringing Western economies to their knees, all the world’s dictators now know that pathogens can be as destructive as nuclear missiles.”

  • Designer pathogensHow Do We Know Whether a Virus Is Bioengineered?

    Since the onset of the pandemic, theories – or, rather, conspiracy theories – and no-evidence assertions argued that the coronavirus was intentionally engineered by Chinese scientists as a potential bioweapon, despite the consensus of scientists and intelligence experts that the virus’s genetics indicate that it is most likely a zoonotic pathogen. The scientists relied on a Finding Engineering-Linked Indicators (FELIX) analysis to reach their conclusion, but there are other detection tools – trouble is, these other tools may be used to engineer viruses for bioattacks.

  • PoisonPoison: Chasing the Antidote

    While targeted chemical attacks on civilians tend to make headlines, the most common poisoning reports in the United States are from accidental exposure to household chemicals such as insect sprays, cleaning solutions or improperly washed fruit or vegetables. In any case, the remedy is a fast-acting, poison-chasing drug compound, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory says it is on the forefront developing a new generation of life-saving antidotes.

  • AnthraxPreparing to Clean Up Following an Anthrax Attack

    The microorganism that causes anthrax, the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, has infected people and animals since ancient times. Anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack, because the anthrax bacteria exist in the natural environment, can be easily disguised in powders, sprays, food or water, and have been previously used as a biological warfare agent.

  • BiosecurityAdvancing Biosecurity in the Age of COVID

    By Stevie Kiesel

    The response to COVID-19 has exposed a world that is largely unprepared to deal with emerging and novel biothreats, whether the outbreak is natural or intentional. The Global Health Security Network brought together two biosecurity experts to discuss how current projects to improve global health security can adapt during the pandemic and what changes the world needs to make to improve biosafety and biosecurity.

  • BioweaponsMaking Bioweapons Obsolete

    The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) and Sandia National Laboratories convened experts and thought leaders in government, academia, and the private sector to discuss the ways to make a future in which the threat of biological weapons is greatly reduced.

  • BioweaponsThe Future Bioweapons Threat: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

    By Yong-Bee Lim

    Experts discussing the lessons of the coronavirus epidemic for preparations for a bioweapon attack, are worried that the failures to detect, mitigate, and respond to COVID-19 may make a future biological weapon attack more likely. These experts agree that the U.S. has a long way to go in addressing biological threats from natural and man-made sources. Further, the U.S. needs to adapt to new realities – a time where citizens’ trust of government is significantly lower, where citizens actively protest experts and their recommendations, and where misinformation is one tap on a smartphone away.

  • BioterrorismTerrorists could use coronavirus as example for future biological attack

    Terrorism experts are warning that the coronavirus pandemic could be used as a template for future biological attacks by either state or non-state actors. Security experts with the Council of Europe say that terrorists, assessing the impact of the coronavirus, would now recognize the fact that they can use biological weapons to inflict a major blow on Western countries (or, for that matter, on any country). According to these experts, the virus has exposed how vulnerable modern societies are.

  • PerspectiveSome Synthetic Biology May Not be Covered by the Biological Weapons Convention

    The study of viruses once challenged the world’s notion of what is “biological,” and for a time it was not clear whether viruses were regulated by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Durward Johnson and James Kraska write that “SynBio and its convergence with emerging technologies may create weapons not currently banned by universal disarmament obligations or customary international law, and this legal gap raises the prospect of weaponization of nonbiological threat agents tailor-made to create targeted effects. These tactical biotechnological capabilities could have potentially strategic consequences and yet may fall outside the existing regime.”

  • CoronavirusCoronavirus “Not Man-Made”: U.S. Intelligence Community

    The U.S. intelligence community, in a rare public statement on Thursday, said that evidence shows that the virus was not engineered in a Chinese laboratory. The U.S. intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said. Talk that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese lab, or escaped from a lab, has persisted for weeks, as have other theories, many of which have been discredited as conspiracy theories or as part of disinformation campaigns.

  • ArgumentThe Next Pandemic Might Not Be Natural

    Germs have killed more people than all the wars in history, and people have been trying to make use of them throughout all those wars. In the U.S., we have seen small-scale bioterrorist attacks – the Rajneeshee poisoning of restaurants in 1986 and the Amerithrax letters that were mailed in 2001. Still, the years running up to this current coronavirus pandemic not only saw the gutting of U.S. national health institutions but also a cultural groundswell of science denial in the anti-vaccination movement. Today the United States in particular is paying for that denial in livelihoods and lives. The warnings were clear. If 9/11 was a “failure of imagination,” then history will no doubt judge the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 as a failure of courage, compassion, and, most of all, competence.

  • BiosecurityRethinking Biosecurity Governance

    Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from the current coronavirus pandemic is how to learn future lessons without having to experience a pandemic, whether natural in origin or made by humans. We must rethink and test assumptions about relationships between biological research, security, and society to plan for biosecurity threats.

  • TerrorismDOJ: Deliberately Spreading COVID-19 to Be Prosecuted as Domestic Terrorism

    As panic and fear spread with the COVID-19 pandemic, stupid, or malicious, acts may soon be considered criminal offenses and subject to terrorism laws. DOJ has circulated a memo to law enforcement and federal prosecutors saying that deliberate acts to spread the coronavirus could be prosecuted under federal terrorism laws given that the virus is a biological agent.

  • BioweaponsMaking Bioweapons Obsolete

    As the threats posed by bioterrorism and naturally occurring infectious disease grow and evolve in the modern era, there is a rising potential for broad negative impacts on human health, economic stability and global security. To protect the United States from these dangers, researchers are taking on the ambitious goal of making bioweapons obsolete.

  • BioweaponsBioterrorists, 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. Two years ago Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, spoke in London, saying 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.