• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.