• BIOWEAPONSWould Russia Use Bioweapons in Ukraine?

    By Jasmine Latimore

    In March, claims from the Kremlin of a U.S.-funded bioweapon program in Ukraine flooded global media. Those reports were amplified by China and picked up by conservative news outlets and conspiracy groups in the U.S. U.S. warned that Russia could be using this thread of disinformation to stage a false-flag incident using bioweapons, or to justify the use of its own bioweapons against Ukraine. It wouldn’t have been the first time Russia used false-flag tactics, and the threat of Russia using bioweapons in either scenario isn’t an outlandish prospect.

  • ARGUMENT: DHS & BIODEFENSEReforming DHS’s Biodefense Operations and Governance

    Today’s biological threats show no signs of desisting any time soon. Naturally occurring outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics, and laboratory accidents pose a growing challenge – while the number of high-containment laboratories and amount of dangerous research continues to increase unabated. “DHS, as chief among those federal departments and agencies responsible for securing the homeland, must overcome its current state of fractionation and demonstrate to the rest of the government, country, and world that it is capable of coordinating and leading efforts in biodefense and other arenas,” Carrie Cordero and Asha M. George write.

  • BIORISKSAs Science Evolves, Policy Framework Needs to as Well

    In late February, the NIH and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy asked the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity NSABB to make swift progress on its long-overdue review. The panel plans to draft a report outlining its recommendations by the end of the year.

  • ARGUMENT: Risky BusinessCreating Dangerous Viruses in the Lab Is a Bad Way to Guard against future Pandemics

    In 2011, three top U.S. government scientists — Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Francis Collins, the head of NIH, and Gary Nabel, then a top official at Fauci’s institute – wrote that given the uncertainties regarding the emergence of new, pandemic-causing pathogens, “important information and insights can come from generating a potentially dangerous virus in the laboratory.” Laura H. Kahn writes that “There are other less risky ways of preventing pandemics than conducting gain-of-function research on pathogens.”

  • BiosecurityImproving Safety in Labs Dealing with Lethal Viruses

    Biosafety-Level (BSL) 4 laboratories undertake hazardous research into lethal viruses to improve our understanding of diseases such as Ebola and Lassa Fever and to better prepare the world against new and emerging diseases. But these activities pose significant risks. Surges in the number of labs and an expansion in the high-risk research carried out within them have exacerbated safety and security risks.

  • ARGUMENT: Improving BiosecurityTwenty Years After the Patriot Act, What Is the Future of Biosecurity?

    The USA Patriot Act was signed into law twenty20 years ago, on 26 October 2001. Yong-Bee Lim, David Gillum, and Kathleen Vogel write Many changes have taken place since 2001, and  “The Patriot Act’s top-down approach cannot fully address this emerging reality, the authors write. Despite twenty years of effort, some old biosecurity issues continue to plague the country, while a whole new biosecurity frontier is opening up.”

  • BiolabsReporting All Biosafety Errors Could Improve Labs Worldwide – and Increase Public Trust in Biological Research

    By David Gillum, Kathleen Vogel, and Rebecca Moritz

    Around the world, scientists conduct many kinds of biological research experiments – from basic studies exploring how living systems operate to synthesizing novel organisms. The idea that a pathogen could escape from a laboratory and infect the entire world is the stuff of horror movies. Working with biological materials does have inherent risks, and laboratory incidents will happen – the goal is to minimize risks to laboratory personnel, the community and the environment.

  • BioweaponsCalifornia Biosecurity Bill Safeguards Bioeconomy and Public Health

    Biosecurity experts say that California has the opportunity to reduce the risk posed by synthetic smallpox — and other novel biological threats —while keeping California’s bioeconomy innovative and strong.

  • COVID-19 originsU.S. Intelligence Community's Report Inconclusive on COVID-19 Origins

    In May, the U.S. intelligence community (IC) was tasked by President Joe Biden to investigate the origins of CVID-19. On Tuesday, the IC delivered its assessment to the White House. The IC report is inconclusive, offering no definitive answer to the question of whether COVID-19 jumped to humans naturally, or was released from a lab.

  • Gain-of-function researchWhy Gain-of-Function Research Matters

    By David Gillum and Rebecca Moritz

    There are unanswered questions about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, so both the U.S. government and scientists have called for a deeper examination of the validity of claims that a virus could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. Much of the discussion surrounds “gain-of-function” research. What is gain-of-function research? What are the benefits of this research, and how risky is it?

  • Lab safetyIt’s Time to Talk about Lab Safety

    A new website, GlobalBioLabs.org, is an interactive web-based map of global Biosafety Level 4 facilities and biorisk management policies. Only 17 of the 23 countries that house BSL-4 laboratories have national biosafety associations or are members of international partnerships.

  • Risky bioresearchFifty-Nine Labs around World Handle the Deadliest Pathogens – Only a Quarter Score High on Safety

    By Filippa Lentzos and Gregory Koblentz

    The focal point of this lab-leak discussion is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, nestled in the hilly outskirts of Wuhan. It is just one of 59 maximum containment labs in operation, under construction or planned around the world. Known as biosafety level 4 (BSL4) labs, these are designed and built so that researchers can safely work with the most dangerous pathogens on the planet – ones that can cause serious disease and for which no treatment or vaccines exist. Far from all of these labs score well on safety and security.

  • BiolabsHere’s What Scientists Learn from Studying Dangerous Pathogens in Secure Labs

    By Jerry Malayer

    There are about 1,400 known human pathogens – viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and helminths that can cause a person’s injury or death. But in a world with a trillion individual species of microorganisms, where scientists have counted only one one-thousandth of one percent, how likely is it researchers have discovered and characterized everything that might threaten people? Not very likely at all. And there’s a lot to be gained from knowing these microscopic enemies better.

  • ARGUMENT: Covid-19 originsThe Origins of Covid-19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic

    Did COVID-19 originate with bats or scientists? Amanda Moodie and Nicholas Evans write that the desire to identify the origins of the novel coronavirus is perfectly understandable, but that “while answering the question of where the novel coronavirus came from is important, many of the most important policy decisions the United States needs to make to prevent future pandemics do not depend on viral origins.” “there is one important scenario in which it would be absolutely vital to know the origins of COVID-19: If “the pandemic stemmed from a deliberate attempt to develop a biological warfare agent, this would have serious implications for the Biological Weapons Convention and the broader norm against the use of disease as a weapon.”

  • PERSPECTIVE: Plum IslandCongress’s Spending Bill Protects a Mysterious Island for Studying Diseases from the Auction Block

    For decades, Plum Island, off the northeast edge of Long Island, has been the subject of the kind of conspiracy theories the Internet loves. The truth is more prosaic: By order of Congress, the Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory opened in 1956 to study how to combat dangerous foreign animal pathogens, such as foot-and-mouth disease. A dozen years ago, Congress approved a plan to move the animal research facility to Manhattan, Kansas. The move was to be followed by auctioning Plum Island to the highest bidder. A coalition consisting of environmental groups, Native American nations, local businesses, and other organizations was formed to block any such sale. James Bennet writes that “deep within the 5,000-plus pages of the spending bill awaiting President Trump’s signature… is a terse provision that saves Plum Island from the auction block.”