• BiosecurityDOD lagging on lab biosecurity: GAO

    For three years, the DoD has been attempting to implement security reforms after reports revealed that an Army lab at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah accidentally sent 575 live samples of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, to 194 labs over the course of a decade. The GAO says the Department of Defense (DoD) is still short of meeting goals meant to improve the department’s biosafety and biosecurity programs, leaving government labs still at risk.

  • BiodefenseWhite Houses unveils new National Biodefense Strategy

    The Trump administration on Tuesday released a new National Biodefense Strategy, along with an order from President Donald Trump that directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take the coordinating lead and establishes a cabinet-level biodefense steering committee. Some experts are praising the broad scope of the strategy, new elements that it covers, and the high-level attention and oversight built into the plan.

  • BioterrorismGerman prosecutors widen bioterrorism plot probe

    German prosecutors have widened their investigation into a thwarted biological terror attack. Two suspected accomplices were arrested in Tunisia, one of whom planned a “simultaneous” attack in Tunisia. In June, Sief Allah H. was arrested in a police raid on his apartment in the western city of Cologne. Investigators found “toxic substances” that were later determined to be deadly ricin poison. The 29-year-old was also found to have bomb-making materials in his possession.

  • TerrorismRicin attack plotters in Germany tested biological weapon on a hamster

    German prosecutors have arrested the wife of a Tunisian man who was detained last month for plotting a biological attack. The couple bought a hamster to test a chemical substance before they were going to use it in a planned terrorist attack.

  • BioterrorismSoligenix receives European, Canadian patents for its ricin toxin vaccine (RiVax) formulation

    Soligenix, Inc., a late-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has received notice of allowance for European and Canadian patent applications further extending protection around ThermoVax  including coverage of the company’s ricin toxin vaccine, RiVax. RiVax potentially would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile and dispensed in the event of a terrorist attack.

  • BioterrorismGerman police find large quantities of castor seeds in bioweapon suspect’s apartment

    German police investigators have found more than 3,000 castor bean seeds in the Cologne apartment of a 29-year old Tunisian, who was arrested last week for making a biological weapon. The quantity of castor seeds was much larger than initially thought. Castor beans are used in making the toxin ricin. The suspect, who is married to a German woman, had been under police surveillance for contacts with Islamist extremists.

  • Designer pathogensSynthetic biology could be misused to create new weapons

    Synthetic biology expands the possibilities for creating new weapons — including making existing bacteria and viruses more harmful — while decreasing the time required to engineer such organisms, concludes a new report by the National Academies of Sciences. Although some malicious applications of synthetic biology may not seem plausible right now, they could become achievable with future advances.

  • BioterrorismPolice carry out more raids in Cologne, Germany, after biological weapon arrest

    Police in the German city of Cologne on Friday searched several empty apartments in a high-rise, following the Tuesday discovery of the highly toxic substance ricin in one of the apartments. On Thursday, police charged a 29-year-old Tunisian man with producing a biological weapon and for “preparing a serious act of violence against the state.”

  • TerrorismGerman police arrest man for building a biological weapon

    The police in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday arrested 29-year old Sief Allah H. for trying to build biological weapons in his apartment. He came to Germany in 2016 and had been under police surveillance for terrorist sympathies. In mid-May he ordered 1,000 castor seeds — the main ingredient for used in ricin toxin — and a coffee grinder from an online store. In June he managed to produce the toxin June.

  • BiosecurityMost Americans favor more funding for biosecurity capabilities

    A new nationwide survey of the American electorate reveals that the vast majority of Americans support increased funding to address biosecurity threats. Additionally, most Americans support their elected officials actively engaging to promote and support biosecurity.

  • BiothreatsFunding restored to National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures lab

    The Fort Detrick, Maryland-based National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is no longer facing an immediate jeopardy. The federal omnibus spending bill,  released last Wednesday evening, provided full funding for the biohazard laboratory – funding which the original administration’s budget proposal eliminated.

  • BioterrorismRestoring subways in the event of a bioterrorist attack

    Only a week after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, envelopes containing anthrax spores were sent to several media companies and two senators. As a result, twenty-two people were infected and five died. Since these incidents, the U.S. has increased its efforts on measures countering bioterrorism. That incident stemmed from spores sent to individuals and offices where the reach was somewhat contained. Imagine if the spores had been taken onto a mass transit platform — like the subway. A subway incident can bring a whole city to a halt, and the effects can last much longer in the form of lingering fear and mistrust.

  • Designer pathogensAssessing the risks, benefits of horsepox synthesis

    Truly assessing the risks and benefits of the recent horsepox synthesis is not an easy task. Two of the latest articles analyzing the implications of this research have been released in mSphere. They point to the increased attention on DURC [dual use research of concern] and the debate surrounding the benefits of a new vaccine versus the potential for a nefarious actor to misuse the process.

  • Termination with extreme prejudiceBritain deploys specialist troops in city where ex-Russian spy collapsed

    Britain has deployed specialist troops to remove potentially contaminated objects from the site where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious after a suspected nerve-agent attack. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since they were found on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury on 4 March.

  • Termination with extreme prejudiceToxicologist: Lab with “military capability” likely made poison used on Russian ex-spy

    British investigators have announced that a “nerve agent” was used in an attempt to murder Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. But they have not specified what nerve agent was used in the attack. Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology and a member of the British government’s advisory group on chemical warfare agents, said about the likely source of the toxic substance: “I think it’s more a case in which we are talking about a military capability. If you are a diligent chemist, you will find procedures for making sarin and tabun and various other chemical agents. But there’s the complexity in making it and how efficient the reaction is. And, of course, there is the risk of exposure in making something, too. So containment to make sure that the laboratory person is not exposed is absolutely crucial. So I think, really, what one is looking at here is probably more a military-type manufacture. But again, we just have to wait and see.”