Globalizing Biosecurity: The Virtual Biosecurity Center

Nishal Mohan
Please click on the image above to view Dr. Mohan's presentation.

Dr. Nishal Mohan, Biosecurity Program Manager at the Federation of American Scientists and the Executive Director of the Virtual Biosecurity Center (VBC), spoke on the subject of ‘Globalizing Biosecurity: The Virtual Biosecurity Center’ at Princeton University on April 8, 2011. This talk is part of the Princeton Biosecurity Seminar Series, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.

For more information on Dr. Nishal Mohan please visit the VBC staff page. You can find more biosecurity related videos on the VBC video page.

Position Filled – Biosecurity Education Project Manager

The Biosecurity Program at the Federation of American Scientists is expanding!

Job Title: Biosecurity Education Project Manager

Location: Washington, D.C.

Job Type: Temporary position ending September 16, 2011 but with a possibility of becoming a permanent position thereafter.
Description: The Federation of American Scientists’ Biosecurity Program is seeking a smart, energetic individual to manage the Biosecurity Education Project and further develop existing research projects on the responsible use of science and technology, and biological weapons control.
Candidates should have taken graduate-level courses in biology and have knowledge of educational methods, html, CSS, WordPress, web design, social media, and image/video editing. Strong writing skills are required and the candidate should have previous scientific publications. Continue reading

The Virtual Biosecurity Center

Please do not forget to check out one of our exciting new additions to the Biosecurity Program: The Virtual Biosecurity Center.
The Virtual Biosecurity Center (VBC) is the ‘one stop shop’ for biosecurity information, education, best practices, and collaboration.

To find out more about the VBC and how you may play a role in coordinating this global approach to biosecurity, please visit the VBC.

Biological Weapons Convention: More Communication & Collaboration Needed

Credit:The GSTAAD Project

On 6th of December 2010, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, delivered a message to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Meeting of the State Parties on the need for structured and regular means of monitoring developments in science and technology to reduce risks to international security and achieving global biological disarmament. “While much is being done to promote assistance and cooperation for the peaceful uses of biological science and technology, more could still be done to improve coordination and communication, ” he said.  The five-day meeting in Geneva is part of a four-year programme mandated by the 2006 Sixth Review Conference of the BWC aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Convention and improving its effectiveness as a practical barrier against the development or use of biological weapons. Continue reading

Biosecurity Bills Before Congress

Several biosecurity related bills are being considered by Congress. Photo credit Harry Keely.
With the lame-duck congressional session drawing to a close there is not much time for action on the biosecurity related bills before Congress.  So what does this mean for biosecurity and biosecurity related legislation?  Congress is considering several bills related to biosecurity, but little progress is expected during the remainder of the lame-duck session.

First, S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, passed the Senate last week on a bipartisan basis with a vote of 73-25.  A similar version of the bill, which aims to update the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety policies for the first time in over sixty years, passed the House last year.

At a news conference in 2004, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson famously said, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do. And we are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that.”  This bill would increase food safety and strengthen biosecurity by increasing the FDA’s power to enforce mandatory recalls of contaminated food and the number of inspections of food processors. Continue reading

Illicit Global Trade in Botulinum Neurotoxin

Crystal Structure of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A,  Credit: RCSB Protein Data Bank
Crystal Structure of Botulinum Neurotoxin Serotype A, (Credit: RCSB Protein Data Bank)

The world market in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is estimated to be worth some $75 billion annually.  A couple million dollars worth of this trade can be attributed to the trade of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT), an extremly potent toxin that, at very low doses, is commonly used in both cosmetic,  e.g. BoTox, and therapeutic medical treatments.  Because BoNT is the most potent toxin known to man, it is grouped with the world’s most lethal potential biological weapons agents, sharing “Select Agent” status with the pathogens that cause smallpox, anthrax and plague.  This biowarfare potential puts the existence of illicit laboratories churning out the toxin and of shady distributors selling it worldwide through the Internet into a more disturbing light than most pharmaceutical fraud.   Continue reading

Ridding the World of Rinderpest

Cattle dead from rinderpest circa 1900. (Credit: Texas A&M University)

Humanity’s 5,000 year struggle with the cattle disease rinderpest is over according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization.  In 1994, the FAO launched an aggressive program to eradicate this dangerous disease through vaccinations and monitoring, and the last known case was detected in 2001.  Ten years later, in 2011, FAO will officially mark the end of disease.  However, the debate over the strategy to prevent a recurrence and how best to safely store the virus for study is just beginning. Continue reading

Overview: HHS Screening Framework for Providers of Synthetic dsDNA

DNA Helix (Credit: The DNA Project)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its much-anticipated Guidance report on Wednesday, Oct. 13th 2010, describing a recommended screening method for synthetic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) manufacturers. The report provides the recommended framework for the screening of orders to ensure manufacture compliance with current Select Agent Regulations (SAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and reduce the risk of supplying products to individuals that may exploit this dual-use technology for malicious intent. Continue reading

FAS Celebrates 65 Years of Science, Security, and Policy

Last Wednesday, FAS celebrated its 65th anniversary by hosting an awards dinner at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Dr. John Holdren and Ms. Barbara Pyle were honored with the FAS Hans Bethe and Public Service Awards for their work on important global issues. Dr. Holdren is the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Adviser to the President of the United States, and Ms. Pyle is an executive producer, director, and noted environmentalist. Human rights activist Bianca Jagger served as the master of ceremonies. For more details, pictures, and video, click here to read the President’s blog.

Farewell to Bill Patrick, “Bioweaponeer”.

Dr. William "Bill" C. Patrick III, 1926-2010 (Credit:

Dr. William “Bill” C. Patrick III, 84, passed away on Friday, Oct. 1, 2010.

Born on July, 24, 1926 in Southhampton, SC, Patrick was a U.S. veteran and influential microbiologist that devoted over three decades of service to the U.S. Army’s headquarters for biological weapons research in Fort Detrick, MD.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Patrick received a graduate degree from the University of South Carolina (1948) and a master’s degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Tennessee (1949). Continue reading