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Biodefense Knowledge Center (BKC) CREATE Conference. Bill Colston Director November 18, 2004. The life sciences revolution is producing knowledge that has immediate biodefense implications.

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Biodefense knowledge center bkc create conference

Biodefense Knowledge Center (BKC)CREATE Conference

Bill Colston


November 18, 2004

The life sciences revolution is producing knowledge that has immediate biodefense implications
The life sciences revolution is producing knowledge that has immediate biodefense implications

  • Complete genome of more than 100 microbial pathogens, including smallpox, anthrax, botulism, and plague are already freely available on the internet

  • Dual use problem: “experiments of concern”*

    • Force multipliers

      • Virulence

      • Transmissibility

      • Host range

      • Dissemination

      • Weaponization

    • Evading biological countermeasures

      • Diagnostics (environmental and medical)

      • Therapeutics (vaccines, Ab/Av resistance)

*National Academies Report - “Biotechnology Research in the Age of Terrorism”, NAS, October 8, 2003

The biggest impediment to all source analysis is the human resistance to sharing information 9 11
“The biggest impediment to all-source analysis… immediate biodefense implications is the human resistance to sharing information”9/11

  • Intra- and Inter-agency silos

    • By mission: Intelligence, Law enforcement, Public Health, etc.

    • By domain: genomics, assessments, transportation, etc.

  • No distributed, secure network

    • Old mainframe model

    • Privacy/classification concerns not addressed (OUO to SCI)

    • Not readily scaleable to future needs

Knowledge Interface immediate biodefense implications



Semantic Graph


Information Interface

The mission of the BKC is to provide scientifically rigorous, actionable information to all stakeholders


Knowledge integration & discovery

Policy guidelines

Analysis and interpretation

Subject matter experts

Secure, tailored access

S&T knowledge products


The goal of the bkc is to enable better more timely understanding of the threat from bioterrorism
The goal of the BKC is to enable better, more timely understanding of the threat from bioterrorism

…you know

…you don’t know

  • Integrate all biodefense related knowledge

Actionable information

Identified gaps



  • Accelerate understanding of the bioterrorist threat

Biodefense Knowledge Center

You don’t


Non-accessed information



  • Enable understanding through technology

Last week we provided dhs senior staff with an info bulletin to exercise our reachback processes
Last week we provided DHS senior staff with an info bulletin to exercise our reachback processes

  • Soybean rust is foreign plant pathogen

  • Economic losses are expected to be from $640 million to $1.3 billion in FY05

  • Research restricted to one USDA lab in US

Long term studies include material threat assessments mtas
Long term studies include Material Threat Assessments (MTAs) to exercise our reachback processes

  • “Material threats” include biological, chemical, and radiological agents

    • Category A biological agents (anthrax, smallpox, etc.)

    • Chemical weapons

    • Radiation dispersal devices

  • There are several high-level goals for the MTAs

    • Identify plausible worst case attack methods

    • Determine the technical and operational feasibility of the attacks

    • Estimate the number of people exposed

    • Determine critical knowledge gaps

The mtas are designed to inform bioshield countermeasures procurements
The MTAs are designed to inform Bioshield countermeasures procurements

Bioshield Act: July 21, 2004. "By authorizing unprecedented funding and providing new capabilities, Project BioShield will help America purchase, develop and deploy cutting-edge defenses against catastrophic attack,"

Example scenario fmd outbreaks recently occurred in south america
Example scenario: procurementsFMD outbreaks recently occurred in South America

  • Common questions include:

    • Are we at risk?

      • Do we trade livestock products with those regions?

      • Are there frequent travelers from those regions to the US?

    • Are we prepared?

      • Do we have vaccine in the vaccine bank that matches the outbreak strain?

      • Do we have protein/nucleic acid assays capable of detecting that strain?

      • Do we have sufficient reagents on-hand to enable surge testing?

      • Do we know key virus info (species-preference, incubation period, etc.)

    • Do unique features of the outbreaks suggest foul play?

      • Are known adversaries located near the outbreaks?

      • Has the outbreak strain been seen in S. America before?

      • Do we know how it was introduced?

      • Have recent intel reports suggested intentional use of FMD is likely?

By fusing disparate data sources, we can address some of these questions

North American Vaccine Bank

FMDV Vaccine



Protects against

Operates in

Sero-Type O

Known Adversary Group


isolated in

Form of

Form of

Has discussed

Operates in

Deployed Assay Signature

Genetic Sequence from Isolate


Monte Alegre District

Related to

Subset of

Related to

Related to

Located in

Potential Data Sources:


ProMed email


Intelligence data

ProMed Message

Genomic data

Vaccine stockpile data