• New biodefense centers offer modernized approach, face criticism

    A new facility at Texas A&M University is one of three new biodefense centers created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revolutionize the way fatal viruses are countered in the event of an emergency. The $286-million lab features mobile clean rooms that can be detached and moved to form different production or testing systems as the need arises. Not everyone agrees that the design and capabilities of the new center would offer the best response to biothreats.

  • Debate intensifies over whether or not to destroy last stockpile of smallpox

    The world’s health ministers are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the fate of the last known stockpiles of smallpox, held under tight security in two labs— one in the United States and the other in Russia. Smallpox has been eradicated for more than three decades, but some U.S. health officials say the remaining stockpiles should be kept for further studies. The smallpox virus is being used to develop drugs and safer vaccines in case the virus returns through terrorism or a lab accident. Member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) once agreed that the last virus strains known to officials would eventually be destroyed, but a set date was never agreed upon.

  • DHS cancels acquisition of BioWatch’s Generation 3 technology

    Owing to concerns about BioWatcheffectiveness and high cost, DHS has canceled plans to install an automated technology meant to speed the 24-hour operations of the program, the nation’s system for detecting a biological attack.ASeptember 2012 GAO report estimated that annual costs to operate the Generation 3 technology would be “about four times more” than the existing BioWatch system.

  • Amid controversy, Boston City council debates banning Level 4 Biolab

    Boston has long been seen as “America’s Medical Capital,” but that may soon change if the city passes a measure to ban Level 4 Biolab disease research at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory – research which includes deadly and untreatable strains that could decimate an exposed urban population in the event of an accident or terrorist activity.

  • Pocket-sized anthrax detector aids global agriculture

    Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is commonly found in soils all over the world and can cause serious, and often fatal, illness in both humans and animals. The bacteria can survive in harsh conditions for decades. In humans, exposure to B. anthracis may occur through skin contact, inhalation of spores or eating contaminated meat. A credit-card-sized anthrax detection cartridge developed at Sandia National Laboratories and recently licensed to a small business makes testing safer, easier, faster, and cheaper.

  • Identifying the most likely non-state chem-bio threats

    New research finds that Jihadists pose the most likely chem-bio threat, but other actors also featured as top threats. Jihadist actors occupied seven of the top 10 spots in a qualitative analysis; nine of the top 10 in a quantitative analysis; and half of the top 10 in an elicitation analysis.

  • 2014 edition of updated first responder biodetection technology guide available

    A 2014 update to a detailed product guide listing biodetection technologies and sampling products is now available. The updated digest, Biodetection Technologies for First Responders: 2014, provides a comprehensive compilation of commercially available detection devices and products published to help first responders when purchasing equipment and supplies needed to rapidly assess biological threats.

  • Food-related disease outbreaks can teach us about the consequence of food terrorism

    Since unintentional food-related outbreaks have become so common, policy makers could use data from unintended foodborne disease outbreaks to estimate the effects of intended foodborne disease outbreaks. The impact on trade and economies is the primary motive for food terrorism, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but beyond the financial loss, such intended foodborne disease outbreaks may even impact political stability.

  • Positive results reported from single dose anthrax vaccine studies

    Immunovaccine and Pfenex announced positive results from anthrax challenge studies in rabbits using Pfenex’s mutant recombinant Protective Antigen (mrPA) formulated with Immunovaccine’s DepoVax delivery system. Data demonstrates 100 percent protection against a lethal anthrax challenge in animals after vaccination with as little as 0.33 microgram of mutant recombinant Protective Antigen. Dose response observed in the first twenty-eight days following vaccination.

  • Scientists learn how Marburg virus grows in cells

    Infections with Marburg virus lead to death in as many as 90 percent of those infected. Once restricted to Africa, cases of the virus have been identified in travelers from Europe and the United States, making effective prevention and treatment a top biodefense priority. Study suggests targeting molecular interaction of virus and host protein may arrest this lethal virus.

  • Synthetic biology makes bioweapons easier to make

    Scientists and policy makers are no longer unconditionally promoting scientific innovation for fear that current and future biological breakthroughs may lead to dangerous applications. Traditionally, government-backed institutions and pharmaceutical firms fueled biological innovation, but today, the barriers that limited innovation to those institutions are diminishing. The low cost and significantly reduced level of necessary expertise have provided anyone interested in developing biological technology the tools to do so. Synthetic biology, the design and engineering of biological devices and systems, has given terrorists the capability to launch attacks using synthetic organisms without detection.

     

  • Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

    The fall 2011 anthrax attacks cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

  • Positive safety results Marburg drug candidate announced

    Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and potentially fatal disease in humans first recognized in 1967. It is caused by an RNA virus of the Filoviridae family and is understood to be endemic to Africa. The Marburg virus is classified as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in 2006 was determined by DHS to be a material threat to national security and public health. There are currently no treatments for Marburg virus infection beyond supportive care. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics, a developer of innovative RNA-based therapeutics, announced positive safety results from a Phase I multiple ascending dose study of AVI-7288 in healthy volunteers. AVI-7288 is the company’s lead drug candidate for the treatment of Marburg virus infection.

  • Solution to drug resistance problem receives U.S. patent

    Before the development of penicillin, people dropped like flies in response to minor infections. Even pimples could grow to boils that killed. One of the main killers prior to the discovery of antibiotics was tuberculosis. The deadly infectious disease that typically affects the lungs has returned – and has developed a resistance to the majority of antibiotics that would otherwise kill the tuberculosis bacteria. A Danish chemistry researcher has taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics.

  • Gaining better understanding of tularemia, aka “rabbit fever”

    Tularemia, aka “rabbit fever,” is endemic in the northeastern United States, and is considered to be a significant risk to biosecurity — much like anthrax or smallpox — because it has already been weaponized in various regions of the world. Despite its importance for both public health and biodefense, F. tularensis pathogenesis is not entirely understood, nor is it fully understood how the organism persists in the environment.