Bioterrorism

  • BiosafetySafety concerns dog new Level 4 Biolab being built in the middle of Tornado Alley

    The new Department of Homeland Security’s(DHS) animal pathogen-research facility, a Level 4 Biolab being built in Manhattan, Kansas and aiming to replace the aging New York’s Plum Island lab, is situated in the middle of Tornado Alley, leading researchers and security experts to question the wisdom of the decision to build it there. Why place a lab in which research is conducted on pathogens for which no cure or treatment has yet been found – fir example, foot-and-mouth disease – not only in an area known for being routinely hit by powerful tornadoes, but also in the middle of a region where most U.S. cattle is being raised?

  • BioterrorismHow anthrax spores grow in cultured human tissues

    Cultured human lung cells infected with a benign version of anthrax spores have yielded insights into how anthrax grows and spreads in exposed people. The study will help provide credible data for human health related to anthrax exposure and help officials better understand risks related to a potential anthrax attack. The study also defined for the first time where the spores germinate and shows that the type of cell lines and methods of culturing affect the growth rates.

  • AnthraxNo government agency oversees handling of deadly pathogens in 1,495 U.S. labs

    According to the CDC, 181 “organizations or entities” in the United States are registered as working with live anthrax, and 321 in total working with live pathogens. Within these 321 entities, roughly 1,495 laboratories are accredited under the Federal Select Agent Program to work with live pathogens such as anthrax. There is no official government agency to oversee production and research of bioweapons that does not – as the CDC does — engage in its own active pathogen research. “Even one spore is a sufficient seed stock from which an amount could grow to mount a biological weapons attack,” says one expert. “The sad circumstance is that this massive effort [U.S. research on anthrax] since 2001 has dramatically increased the chances of a biological weapon attack on the U.S., precisely by distributing a highly lethal strain of the agent with no structure and no ability to record where they have gone.”

  • AnthraxPentagon, CDC investigating live anthrax shipping mishap

    Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has announced that the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating the recent accidental shipment from a U.S. Army laboratory in Utah of live bacterium anthrax samples to fifty-one facilities in eighteen states and three foreign countries. The investigators have already identified the West Desert Test Center (WDTC), the testing area for Dugway Proving Ground, as the source of the mix up.

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  • Bioweapons51 labs in 17 states may have received live anthrax samples: Pentagon

    Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said yesterday (Wednesday) that the Pentagon may have shipped live anthrax samples to fifty-one labs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. Word also said that it was likely that the numbers of labs which might have received live anthrax will go up as the Pentagon’s investigation into the shipments continues. All the samples shipped belonged to three lots, dating back to 2007, stored at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. CDC raises questions about the effectiveness of the method used by the Dugway lab to deactivate anthrax spores.

  • BioweaponsPentagon accidentally ships live anthrax from Utah to labs in nine states

    The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday admitted it had accidentally shipped samples of a live anthrax spores – a potential bioweapon — across nine states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea. The Pentagon revealed what it described as an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis” from a DoD laboratory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah to labs in nine states. The mishap alarmed biosafety experts. “These events shouldn’t happen,” said one.

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  • BiolabsGroundbreaking for new Biosafety Level 4 lab in Kansas

    Officials on Wednesday broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a $1.25 billion animal research facility near the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF will be the U.S. only Level 4 biosafety lab – a designation which means that the lab is secure enough to handle, and conduct research on, pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. Critics argue that locating the lab on the campus of KSU — in the heart of cattle country and the middle of Tornado Alley – would not be a good idea. NBAF will replace the aging biolab in Plum Island, New York.

  • BiolabsDHS S&T awards $834 million contract for construction of Manhattan, Kansas biolab

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the award of a contract for the final phase of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. The $834 million award by S&T’s procurement support partner, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), modifies the existing contract for McCarthy Mortensen NBAF Joint Venture, which was selected in 2009.

  • BioterrorismFormer agent sues FBI for retaliating against him for criticizing anthrax letters investigation

    Richard L. Lambert, a former senior FBI agent who, for four years, ran the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the FBI, accusing the agency of trying “to railroad the prosecution of [Bruce E.] Ivins” – the main suspect in the attacks — and, after Ivins’s 2008 suicide, of creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that Ivins was guilty. Lambert’s lawsuit also charges that the FBI and the Justice Department forced the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to dismiss him from his job as senior counterintelligence officer there in retaliation for his critique of the FBI’s conclusions in the anthrax case.

  • BioterrorismHalting response to the 4 Ebola cases in U.S. valuable in preparations for bioterror attacks

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 10,000 people to date. There were only four Ebola diagnoses in the United States, one of which resulted in a death, but many public health officials say the U.S. response to in-country cases is a lesson on how government can prepare for a bioterror attack. Experts warn, though, thatthe United States is only prepared to confront a fraction of the fifteen potential biological agents that could be released in an attack, adding that many U.S. cities would be left scrambling to respond.

  • BioweaponsBioweapons do not offer the same deterrence value nukes offer: Experts

    Biological and nuclear weapons are both considered weapons of mass destruction, but only nuclear weapons currently serve as a deterrence. Some security experts have proposed the idea of nations adopting non-contagious biological weapons as a new form of deterrence. Critics note that the consequences of starting a global biological arms race are troubling enough, but the concept of replacing nuclear weapons with biological weapons as a form of deterrence is flawed for three main reasons: uncertainty of effects, availability of defenses, and the need for secrecy and surprise.

  • BiolabsEscape of deadly bacteria at Louisiana bio-research facility raises concerns

    Weeks after federal and state officials launched an investigation into how the burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria which causes life-threatening disease Melioidosis, escaped a laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana, another investigation is now looking into how a veterinary clinic worker might have been exposed to the bacteria.Tulane was conducting vaccine research on the bacteria in a laboratory that requires a biosafety level 3 rating — - the second highest security level.

  • BiolabsNBAF-focused research already underway at K-State U, ahead of level-4 biolab opening

    Although the remaining funding for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, was recently finalized, work on the federal livestock research facility has continued to move forward in recent years — including Kansas State University conducting research which will help jump-start future operations at NBAF. NBAF will be DHS’s premier foreign animal disease research lab. It will research high-consequence livestock diseases that threaten animal and human health. The $1.25 billion lab will be on the northeast edge of K-State Manhattan, Kansas campus. NBAF is anticipated to begin operations in 2022 or 2023. Construction of the facility’s central utility plant is more than 90 percent complete.

  • DHS contractsDHS termination of bio-detection contract questioned

    In February 2014, six months before Silicon Valley startup NVS delivered the first prototypes of its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathogen detector to DHS, the department sent NVS’s chief executive Hans Fuernkranz a notice terminating the project. According to a 26 November 2014 draft audit report by DHS’s inspector general’s office, the decision was improperly made by a single agency official without supporting evidence and “against S&T [DHS Science & Technology Directorate] subject matter expert advice.”The official who made the decision to cancel the project had expressed concerns about the cost associated with the NVS contract, and said the contract was terminated because existing technologies could better meet the agency’s needs for confronting bio-threats. The auditors say, however, that they “did not identify evidence to substantiate any of the concerns.”

  • BioweaponsU.K. military last fall evaluated possible Ebola use by terrorists

    In October 2014, during the peak of the Ebola epidemic which terrorized citizens in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, security and terrorism analysts considered the probability of the Islamic State (ISIS) or other terror groups weaponizing Ebola and unleashing the virus in New York, Paris, London, or another major city. Many bioweapon researchers played down Martinez’s claim, saying terrorists looking to use Ebola as a weapon would encounter problems. Still, last fall, a U.K. military research unit was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organizations could use Ebola to attack Western targets.