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BIO-Defense Issues. Basic Premises. The Cat is out of the Bag Technology and Know-how too widely dispersed (Roger Breachy’s student) From Nations to: Nations Loose organizations/networks Garage Hackers (by 2010-2015) Impossible to distinguish beneficent from belligerent bioscience

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basic premises
Basic Premises
  • The Cat is out of the Bag
    • Technology and Know-how too widely dispersed (Roger Breachy’s student)
    • From Nations to:
      • Nations
      • Loose organizations/networks
      • Garage Hackers (by 2010-2015)
  • Impossible to distinguish beneficent from belligerent bioscience
      • Everything is dual use (“not the needle, the hay”)
  • The Rate of change is exponential
    • By several measures > Moore’s law
    • E.g., genetic info fully sequenced, demand for specifically sequenced materials, pace of fundamental new discoveries (RNAi) etc.
  • And this is Manchester -- 1840
    • Ability to synthesize and manipulate will increase radically over next decade
    • CAN NOT PREDICT > 5 Years Out (J. Watson)
    • Short window to set global norms of appropriate use
old vs new biodefense
Choose a naturally occurring pathogen or toxin

Weaponize it

E.g., via aerosolizing

Very recently: enhance through modification


Limited number of agents of concern

Largely, observable indicators for intelligence to track

Containable Problem – ala Nukes -- i.e., Deterrence and non-proliferation more or less possible

The Old Threats PLUS:

Add new capabilities to a natural pathogen transgenically

Add totally new capabilities not found in nature

E.g., target to haplotypes or alleles

New immune-suppressors or neuro modulators

Bio time-bombs

Design something totally new, UN-natural – designer bioweapons

Engineered to exploit vulnerabilities (e.g. fear-inducing agent)

Weapon does not have to be alive so long as it provokes a host response!!!!

Biomolecules as the agents, with the organism as the delivery mechanism

Further weaponize as necessary


No observable indicators in production

Total Sequence Awareness???

Must shift to detection and rapid response: analysis and diagnosis, intervention, therapies

Old vs. New BioDefense

OLD World

NEW World

Dilemma: Don’t need real knowledge to design something bad, but need full knowledge to respond effectively.

technologies of concern
Advanced Weaponization:



Carrier Beads

Nanoparticles/nano powders



Viral reverse genetics

Viral pseudotyping

Engineered viral agents

Prions and similar things


Anti-materials applications

Synthetic DNA/RNA

Proliferated digitally

DNA Shuffling

Bioregulators – kinases, phosphates, peptides

Immunoregulators – Cytokines, chemokines

Multiple agents (e.g, influenza and pneumonococcus)

Novel Toxins

Transgenic Pathogens

DNA Vaccines

Ethnic Weapons

Technologies of Concern
points of interest
Points of Interest
  • Innate Immunity/defense -- Major revolution brewing – human and ag (why do most plants resist most pathogens???)
  • Antibiotic resistance (APUA)
    • MDRs (multidrug resistance organisms) increasing (now 2-6 antibotics, many no treatment at all)
    • Don’t know resevoirs of MDR
      • Some projects including getting big pharma to share databases on resistance to new drugs
      • Animal antibiotic use is a huge problem – no prescriptions and large quantities
    • Paratech – new paradigm from antibiotic resistance: Idea is to inhibit multiple pathogens to let the drugs do their work
      • Timing of prophylaxis is critical: Enfeeble the organism before it can colonize the host
      • MARA (bacterial protein) – this 1 protein appears to turn on/off 80 genes (lots of MARA homologues in other organisms) including those that enable colonization and reproduction
          • Small molecule to inhibit is goal
broad areas germane to the problem
Broad Areas Germane to the Problem
  • Vaccines and Immunology
  • Antibiotics and antivirals
  • Toxicology and Pathogenicity
  • Epidemiology and Surveillance
    • Big emphasis on “a new epidemiology” in detection, prevention, mitigation
  • Detection, rapid diagnosis and sensors
tentative implications
Tentative Implications
  • Any response MUST fully leverage civilian bio, medical, agric., etc. capabilities
    • International Coalition against dark biology
      • BWC – Bush Administration has no credibility
    • In intelligence gathering
    • In research
    • In industry and technology
  • Another story of vertical specialization: How & why?
  • The search for “blockbusters” through bulking up: So far, not so good.
  • The changing role of publicly funded research and universities: Be careful what you wish for.
    • Proteomics and genomics.
  • Foreign markets and IPR: The Doha Round of trade talks and developing-economy access to pharmaceuticals.
    • Creating incentives for development of drugs for developing-economy diseases.
  • Bio-defense and the pharma. Industry.