Checking samples from a photobioreactor at a zero-carbon microalgae cultivation workshop in Ailun Bay in the Shandong province of China. Photo by Yang Zhili/VCG via Getty Images.

The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the significant societal benefits of recent scientific and technological advances, such as the use of synthetic biology in vaccine development and of gene editing tools such as CRISPR in the development rapid diagnostic tests. But with these advances comes the challenge of ensuring they are used responsibly and for peaceful purposes.

The dual-use nature of many new biological techniques pose significant challenges for governance, particularly as new and complex synergies emerge between biology and other disciplines, such as chemistry, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber technologies.

At the same time, emerging technologies are lowering the barriers to entry into the life sciences, making potentially harmful biological agents more accessible to a diverse range of actors.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Obama administration has declared its intention to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism. But at least two bizarre incidents among drug abusers in Europe force us to question whether experiments with biological weapons might be under way already. In recent weeks, we have heard mystifying reports of the outbreak of anthrax infections among heroin users in Scotland and Germany. More than two dozen users in Scotland and London have been diagnosed, 12 of whom have died. At least one case has been reported in Germany.

Might this be a peculiar anomaly, or does it portend something far more sinister?…  Seguir leyendo »

Posibilidad real de materialización de la amenaza NRBQ por grupos terroristas en España.

Tema: Este ARI aborda, de una forma genérica a la vez que integral, la posibilidad real de que la amenaza nuclear/radiológica, biológica y química (NRBQ) pueda llegar a materializarse por grupos terroristas que tengan como campo de actuación, tanto específico como derivado, nuestro país.

Resumen: El actual mundo globalizado en el que vivimos nos ha proyectado, de manera inexorable, hacia una nueva realidad llena de riesgos y de amenazas cada vez más inopinadas y complejas. Uno de estos nuevos riesgos lo constituye la posible adquisición y posterior utilización de materiales o agentes nucleares/radiológicos, biológicos y químicos (NRBQ) por parte de grupos terroristas.…  Seguir leyendo »

The government’s charge that Dr. Bruce Ivins, a top Army biodefense scientist, was responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings has focused renewed attention on the important question of whether we are adequately prepared to protect against a future bioweapons attack. More than $20 billion has been spent on biodefense research since 2001. But the genetic analysis demonstrating that the anthrax powder used in the 2001 letters was a formulation first made at the Army biodefense research center at Fort Detrick, Md., suggests that our biodefense program risks creating the very threat it is meant to fight.

Spending on biodefense research began to edge up after the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo’s failed attempts to develop and use bioweapons in Tokyo in the 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Wednesday, the United States Justice Department revealed its evidence that Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, on his own, committed the worst act of bioterrorism in the country’s history. This 18-year veteran scientist of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., is accused of killing five people and sickening 17 others in the fall of 2001. Dr. Ivins died on July 29 of an apparent suicide without a chance to give his side of the story.

After reading the affidavits and listening to the Justice Department briefing, I was both disheartened and perplexed by the lack of physical evidence supporting a conviction.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Peter D. Zimmerman, a professor of science and security, James M. Acton, a lecturer and M. Brooke Rogers, a researcher at King’s College London (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 01/08/07):

The death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former K.G.B. officer who drank polonium-210 in a cup of tea, underscored the damage that radiological terrorists could do. The most familiar possible situations involve the detonation of a dirty bomb, a modest amount of high explosive mated to a container of radioactive material. But radioactive material inside the human body is far more dangerous than a dirty bomb.

Most analysts believe that about 10 people would die from radiation poisoning after a dirty bomb attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, is a professor of science and security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He was chief scientist of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001 to 2003 (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19/12/06):

The exotic murder-by-polonium of the former K.G.B. spy Alexander Litvinenko has embroiled Russia, Britain and Germany in a diplomatic scuffle and a hunt for more traces of the lethal substance. But it also throws into question most of the previous analyses of “dirty bombs,” terrorist attacks using radioactive isotopes wrapped in explosives (or using other dispersion techniques) to spread radioactive material in crowded areas.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Tom Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota who served as Senate majority leader, works with the Center for American Progress and for the law firm Alston & Bird (THE WASHINGTON POST, 15/10/06):

Oct. 15, 2001, is a day I'll never forget. On that day one of my staff members opened an anthrax-laced letter addressed to me, and my office became a part of the deadliest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history. Anthrax was also sent through the mail to a number of other people and organizations -- the National Enquirer, the New York Post, broadcaster Tom Brokaw and Sen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por A. Trilla, médico epidemiólogo. Director de la unidad de evaluación, apoyo y prevención del hospital Clínic. Profesor asociado de Salud Pública de la Universitat de Barcelona (LA VANGUARDIA, 23/03/03):

Es corta la lista de agentes biológicos capaces de ser empleados en un ataque, militar o terrorista. La OTAN incluye en su lista de armas biológicas 39 organismos distintos (bacterias, virus, rickettsias y toxinas). De los siete países que Estados Unidos cita como patrocinadores del terrorismo internacional, se sospecha que cinco tienen capacidad real de fabricar armas biológicas.
En 1969, Nixon anunció que Estados Unidos renunciaba al empleo de armas químicas y biológicas y se disponía a destruir las reservas existentes en territorio norteamericano.…  Seguir leyendo »