• 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.

  • Promise 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.

  • Examining 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.

  • Twenty 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 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.

  • California 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.

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

    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.

  • A 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.

  • The 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.

  • Parasites Fight Chemical and Biological Weapons

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

  • Virus 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.

  • Lab-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.

  • Natural 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.”

  • Chinese Company’s Global Genetic Data Collection Poses Economic, Security Threats: Experts

    A Chinese gene company is collecting genetic data through prenatal tests from women in more than 50 countries— including Germany, Spain and Denmark, as well as in Britain, Canada, Australia, Thailand, India and Pakistan. Collecting the biggest and most diverse set of human genomes could propel China to dominate global pharmaceuticals, and also potentially lead to genetically enhanced soldiers, or engineered pathogens to target the U.S. population or food supply, biosecurity experts told Reuters.

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

    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.