• Gene EditingZombie Apocalypse? How Gene Editing Could Be Used as a Weapon – and What to Do About It

    By Pin Lean Lau

    There is a scarier scenario that a repeat of the COVID-1 pandemic: What if the threat wasn’t COVID-19, but a gene-edited pathogen designed to turn us into zombies – ghost-like, agitated creatures with little awareness of our surroundings? With recent advances in gene editing, it may be possible for bioterrorists to design viruses capable of altering our behavior, spreading such a disease and ultimately killing us. And chances are we still wouldn’t be sufficiently prepared to deal with it.

  • PandemicsAddressing Natural and Deliberate Biological Threats: Early Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

    “Infectious disease threats will continue to emerge, whether naturally, by accident, or deliberately. Stopping them from spreading and causing mass effects is possible even today, but we have much work to do bringing our assets to bear” said Andy Weber, Senior Fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR).

  • ARGUMENT: Assessing Biowarfare Biological Weapons in the “Shadow War”

    The COVID-19 pandemic has led to renewed discussion of biological weapons, but Glenn Cross, a former deputy national intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction responsible for biological weapons analysis, argues that the development and possession of biological weapons is trending dramatically downward since the end of World War II. “Nations likely no longer see utility in developing or possessing biological weapons for use in large-scale, offensive military operations given the devastating capabilities of today’s advanced conventional weapons,” he writes.

  • BiosecurityPromise and Peril: Dual-Use Research in the Life Sciences

    Advances in the life sciences and technology are making important contributions to improving global health. Transformative developments in many fields, however, can also pose risks to global health. It is thus only prudent to assess the potential adverse consequences of choosing particular technological pathways and potentially deleterious applications of technologies.

  • BiosecurityExamining the Practically Nonfunctional Federal Biowatch Program

    The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense’s new report addresses inadequacies of BioWatch, the DHS environmental biodetection program. The report, released on the 20th anniversary of the anthrax attacks, shows that BioWatch system remains ineffective after nearly two decades of operation.

  • 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.”

  • Anthrax AttacksAnthrax Attacks: 20 Years On

    Twenty years ago this month the United States experienced the scary anthrax letter attacks, which targeted major media outlets and members of Congress.

  • 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.

  • Public Health PreparednessTwo Decades After 9/11: What We’ve Learned About Public Health Preparedness and Leadership

    By Lauren Eichberger (Reynolds)

    In the United States, 743,452 “excess” (potentially preventable) deaths occurred from COVID-19 between February 2020 and September 4th, 2021, according to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. This figure exceeds the number of excess deaths that occurred during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, which was caused by an even deadlier virus.

  • ARGUMENT: Deterring BioattacksA Deterrence by Denial Strategy for Addressing Biological Weapons

    The U.S. political failures have loomed large in coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. Christine Parthemore and Andy Weber write that, what is more, a number of analysts have warned that, after watching these failures play out, hostile powers might take a new interest in using biological weapons to target the United States. “This risk is real. Fortunately, the pandemic has also brought into use cutting-edge technologies that can help counter it,” they write.

  • PathogensThe Risk of Lab-Created, Potentially Pandemic Pathogens

    In 20212, researchers published studies on making avian influenza contagious through the air among mammals. This debate on developing pathogenic threats for research purposes led the U.S. government to impose a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research. The threat of an accidental release of lab-enhanced pathogens remains high.

  • Chem-bio weaponsParasites Fight Chemical and Biological Weapons

    Harnessing parasites to help soldiers and first responders counter chemical and biological weapon attacks in war zones.

  • COVID originsVirus Likely Naturally Occurring: NIH

    The NIH says that based on the scientific literature, its view is that “SARS-CoV-2 infection in people most likely resulted from zoonotic transmission from animals to humans.” Current evidence does not support the assertion that the virus was engineered, but the NIH does not rule out the possibility of a laboratory accident, in which a naturally occurring virus was unintentionally released during research activities.

  • COVID originsLab-Leak of Genetically Modified Virus: Lawmakers’ Report

    Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) released on Monday a third installment in his investigation into the origins of the virus. The report says that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the pandemic outbreak stemmed from a genetically modified virus which leaked from Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • COVID originsNatural Origin or Genetic Manipulation? We “Can't Say for Sure Yet”: David Baltimore

    David Baltimore, president emeritus of Caltech and Distinguished Professor of Biology, is a virologist who received the Nobel Prize for his research into viral genetics. He says that “But the fact that evolution might have been able to generate SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t mean that that’s how it came about. I think we very much need to find out what was happening in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. I think that we can’t say for sure yet whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from natural origins or if it was genetically manipulated somehow.”