U.S. and North Korea relations, disposal of nuclear weapons components and much more. From the Blogs Strategy Lacking for Disposal of Nuclear Weapons Components: According to an internal Department of Energy contractor report, there is a “large inventory” of classified nuclear weapons components “scattered across” the nation’s nuclear weapons complex and awaiting disposal. But, there [...]
Syria has one of the most sophisticated chemical weapons programs in the world, and is suspected to have an active biological weapons program. Additionally, there are reports that Syrian rebels have acquired MANPADS, which are surface-to-air missiles fired by an individual or a small team. In a new video edition of the FAS series “A [...]
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.
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.
A new report by the UPMC Center for Biosecurity suggests that the US remains unprepared for the task of decontaminating the site of a major biological weapon attack. Decontamination after the comparatively small-scale Anthrax attacks of 2001 is estimated to have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, while shuttering some facilities for as long as two years. By comparison, the costs of a larger scale attack on a major city could be staggering.
Two leading Russian biological weapons scientists presented their inside view of the Soviet bioweapons program at a March 29th panel sponsored by the George Mason University Biodefense Program. Dr. Guennady Lepioshkin, who headed the Anthrax production plant at Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan, and GMU Professor Sergey Popov, who headed projects at the Vector Institute and other laboratories in Obolensk, Russia, presented candid personal accounts of life as bioweapons researchers. Beyond their individual tales, the session offered several lessons that remain relevant to the modern discussion of biosecurity – cautionary tales about the publication of dual use research and the destructive potential of synthetic biology.