Allen Dodson

Recent Activity from Allen Dodson

Emerging Disease Threatens Cassava Crop

The New York Times reported today on the emergence of Cassava Brown Streak Virus in regions of Africa where the tuber is a key food crop. Emphasizing the food’s importance, the Times notes:

“After rice and wheat, cassava is the world’s third-largest source of calories. Under many names, including manioc, tapioca and yuca, it is eaten by 800 million people in Africa, South America and Asia.”

The new virus, a recently characterized emerging variant in East Africa, renders the crop inedible. The estimated $50 million in research funding aimed at deterring the disease is a small fraction of the amounts spent on diseases that infect humans in the developing world.

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The Rise of a New Smallpox Vaccine

Reuters is reporting that the US Strategic National Stockpile will begin acquisition of a new smallpox vaccine. The new product, Imvamune, promises reduced side-effects and potentially improved protection for patients who are treated after exposure to the virus. These traits could make the vaccine much more effective as a countermeasure against a biological attack using smallpox.

Though the story of Imvamune ultimately demonstrates that improved countermeasures to biological threats can be developed, the story also illustrates some of the challenges involved in the process.

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BIO 2010 Biosecurity Conference Wrap-up

Our complete coverage of the BIO 2010 Biosecurity Conference in Chicago can be found in the FAS Biosecurity Blog archives at: http://fas.org/blog/bio/tag/bio2010

Several recurring themes emerged in the presentations by the world’s experts in fields like public health, national security, food defense, biological weapons, and new advances in research. Here is our analysis of some of the themes observed at the conference.

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Personnel Reliability and Infrastructure Security

Personnel reliability refers to programs intended to reduce the “insider threat”; the prospect that researchers who are permitted to work on hazardous biological agents might misuse that access. This has been a major topic in biosecurity since the 2001 Anthrax attacks, which have been attributed to a researcher at Fort Detrick. They were also the focus of a 2008 NSABB report, which did not recommend that a formal personnel reliability program be instituted for research. This panel sought to evaluate whether these measures are sufficient.

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Managing Challenges to Biological Security

Representatives from industry, NGO’s and the government gathered to discuss ways to manage biological threats at the second day of the 2010 Biosecurity convention. The session focused on the coordination that would be required to respond to biological incidents.

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Globalizing Public Health and Bio-Surveillance

In an era of increased globalization, public health and surveillance are playing an increased role in biosecurity. Whether novel pathogens are intentionally created bioweapons or naturally occurring emerging infectious diseases, recognizing the threat is a necessary prerequisite to countering it. This panel brings together representatives from Federal public health agencies, industry researchers, and representatives of NGO’s.

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