• Abbott shows new pathogen detector

    Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Abbott unveiled a new assay system that can accurately detect seventeen different bio-threat pathogens; among different bio-agents targeted in the new test are Bacillus anthracis, E. coli, salmonella, Ebola virus, and avian influenza viruses; the company says the new method provides results in less than eight hours

  • Harris Corp. awarded $9 million Army contract to boost biodefense

    The U.S. Army recently signed a $9 million deal with Harris Corp. to bolster the army’s biological defense capabilities; Harris will provide the Army’s Joint Biological Point Detection System (JBPDS) with its advanced Falcon II AN/PRC-150 high-frequency radio system; the radio system is capable of detecting and identifying biological warfare agents and will automatically send alerts to headquarters when it senses the presence of these agents; JBPDS is a portable self-contained unit designed to automatically detect and identify airborne biological agents

  • New pathogen detection test dramatically reduces wait times

    An Illinois based pharmaceutical company, recently introduced Plex-ID, a new detection system that can accurately identify seventeen different dangerous biological pathogens; the system fills a critical gap in detection capabilities as it can analyze direct samples like blood, food, water, or air filters and provide results in less than eight hours; current blood and tissue tests take three or more days; in the event of a biological attack, detecting pathogens in infected persons is critical as these people will continue to spread the disease unless quarantined; the Plex-ID system has already helped identify an unknown disease in Afghanistan; after eighty-three people became sick with a mysterious disease and seventeen people died, the Plex-ID system accurately identified the disease as bubonic plague when other tests failed

  • Museum exhibit stages immune systems championship

    Dublin’s Science Gallery offers a new exhibit/game: lab scientists take white blood cells from gallery visitors and then pit them (the cells, not the visitors) against each other in a Petri dish to determine which immune system is stronger; the exhibit, called Blood Wars, allows winning blood cell samples move on to the next round, battling other immune systems until a champion is declared

  • Terror attack fears over London virus superlab

    Experts express concern over the 600 million Pound virus “superlab” planned for St. Pancras, London; the 14-story, maximum security site containing viruses including malaria, tuberculosis, bird and swine flu, cancer cells, and HIV would need to be “bulletproof” to withstand not only an earthquake, a bomb, or fire — there are also worries that Tube trains running through King’s Cross and Euston stations could ruin delicate and expensive laboratory equipment

  • Universal flu vaccine within sight

    People need to be vaccinated against flu every year because the flu virus is a scam artist: it uses a big, showy surface protein — and there are sixteen different varieties of this protein, called Hemagglutinin (HA) — to attract your immune system, then changes it so your immune system would not recognize it next time round; vaccines must thus change yearly to match it; scientists discover HA’s Achilles Heel: a vital part of the HA’s viral machinery does not vary much over time or between viruses, meaning that a vaccine based on the this part would be a universal flu vaccine

  • T cells offer new promise for vaccines for plague and bacterial pneumonias

    There is currently no licensed plague vaccine in the United States, which is too bad because Yersinia pestis is arguably the most deadly bacteria known to man; most of the plague vaccine candidates that have been studied aim to stimulate B cells to produce plague-fighting antibodies, but animal studies suggest that antibodies may not be enough to protect humans from pneumonic plague; new studies show that T cells can also fight plague — and may be better candidates with which to develop a plague vaccine

  • Malaysia releases GM mosquitoes in landmark trial

    Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes, which can lead to death if left untreated; the infection killed at least 134 people last year in Malaysia alone; Malasia’s health authorities have released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark trial slammed last week by environmentalists who say the experiment is unsafe

  • Gerald Epstein: No military angle to debate over small pox sample retention

    There is an honest debate among scientists whether to destroy or retain the world’s last remaining smallpox sample; one argument that is not being made is these samples should be retained for possible use as a weapon; the assertion that some of U.S. scientists or government officials who argue for retaining the samples, do so because of the potential use of smallpox as a bioweapon, has no basis in fact; moreover, the indiscriminate spread of small pox makes it unsuitable as a weapon, since its effects could not be limited to the military forces or even the population of an attacking state

  • Smallpox remains a large threat and issue of contention

    Smallpox has been estimated to have taken the lives of an estimated 300-500 million people during the twentieth century; the last two known remaining locations of the virus which triggers the disease are the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR) near Novosibirsk in Russia; there is an intense debate among scientists about whether these last remaining samples should be destroyed; proponents of destruction say the remaining cultures may one day be used as bioweapons, while opponents of destruction say that destroying the cultures would not make any difference because terrorists could develop synthetic smallpox virus to use as weapon

  • Dr. Kavita Berger, biosecurity expert

    Project BioShield, launched in 2004 with a $5 billion funding from Congress, aims to encourage the development of vaccines against bioterror agents; the project has divided the scientific community with regard to the direction of R&D effort funded by the project; some scientists in the field argue that the development and stock-piling of vaccines for known diseases, such as polio, plague, botulism, and anthrax, is a waste of funding — funding which could, and should, be used to develop a universal vaccine which would counteract not only known bioterror agents, but yet-unknown agents, also called “designer pathogens”

  • Mosquito-repelling light barriers will reduce spread of malaria

    Malaria accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths in Africa; a Columbia University experimental physicist is developing a “light shield” consisting of light barriers that can repel mosquitoes by throwing off the insects’ ability to navigate and detect humans via light and heat

  • U.S. will carefully watch, but not regulate, synthetic biology

    White House commission says biologists can engineer custom organisms from synthetic genomes, with the government watching but not regulating the research; critics claim synthetic biology will create unnatural organisms likely to wreak havoc on the larger ecosystem if they got loose in the wild — to say nothing of the risks of bioterrorists using design pathogens; self-regulation, say the critics, is equivalent to no regulation

  • Hope for Plum Island in unease about Kansas biolab?

    Last month the National Research Council issued a safety report which concluded that there is a 70 percent chance of pathogen release from the proposed Manhattan, Kansas BioLab-4 over a 50-year period; The New York congressional delegation points out that upgrading safety at Plum island will cost far less than the $400 million price tag for the Kansas lab

  • Report: DHS underestimates risks of accidental pathogen release at Kansas BioLab

    Manhattan, Kansas, is the proposed location of a new, $450 million BioLab44 DHS research facility; a National Academy of Sciences panel report says that a risk assessment by DHS of the new facility vastly underestimates the risk of an accidental pathogen release from the lab and the associated costs; the NAS report also said last month’s analysis failed to learn from fifteen major accidental releases of the foot and mouth virus around the world