• Artificial Intelligence and Chemical and Biological Weapons

    A recent article in Nature offers a disturbing look at the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creation of chemical and biological weapons. “Anyone unfamiliar with recent innovations in the use of AI to model new drugs will be unpleasantly surprised,” Paul Rosenzweig writes. “The benefits of these innovations are clear. Unfortunately, the possibilities for malicious uses are also becoming clear.”

  • CDC Launches New Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics

    New center will enhance capability for timely, effective decision-making to improve outbreak response using data, models, and analytics

  • Federal Research Funding Has Positive “Ripple Effects”

    Federal funding for biomedical research has a “ripple effect” of stimulating new studies even beyond the original purposes of a grant and may provide unexpected benefits.

  • Politics and Expertise: How to Use Science in a Democratic Society

    The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of scientific advice to modern policymaking. But how can the use of expertise in politics be aligned with the needs and values of the public? The solution: a new model for the relationship between science and democracy.

  • Un-Earthing Planetary Defense

    This summer, NASA will launch its first mission to a metallic asteroid, 16 Psyche, located in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Previous missions have explored rocky and icy asteroids, but Psyche’s composition is widely believed to consist of a considerable amount of metal. Studying extraterrestrial bodies could help defend Earth from future impact threats.

  • Safely Studying Dangerous Infections Just Got a Lot Easier

    To combat a pandemic, science needs to move quickly. An extremely fast new 3D imaging method can show how cells respond to infection and to possible treatments.

  • Getting Better at Telling Misinformation from Reliable Expert Consensus

    Psychology researchers have shown how to better communicate key messages and avoid misinformation.

  • Nobody Saw It Coming: How Scenarios Can Help Us Prepare for the Future in an Uncertain World

    The problem with planning for the future is that it is fundamentally uncertain, and predictions often fall flat when compared with reality. This gap—between the limits of what we can know about the future and the need to plan for it—has led to the development of a variety of tools for futures thinking.

  • Competition and Collaboration: Understanding Interacting Epidemics Can Unlock Better Disease Forecasts

    A new algorithm increases scientists’ abilities to accurately model mutually dependent spreading processes, from virus outbreaks to disinformation on social media.

  • The Battle of the SARS-CoV-2 Variants

    In order to fight the pandemic in the long term, it is crucial to understand why one variant prevails over another. A new study has provided important answers by comparing the spread and transmission of different emerging variants in parallel.

  • Creating 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.”

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

    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.

  • Improving 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.

  • 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.

  • New, $125 Million Project Aims to Detect Emerging Viruses

    A new project, funded with $125 million from USAID, aims to detect and characterize unknown viruses which have the potential to spill over from wildlife and domestic animals to human populations. The 5-year project is expected to yield 8,000 to 12,000 novel viruses, which researchers will then screen and sequence the genomes of the ones that pose the most risk to animal and human health.