Date: January 20, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The Center for Biosecurity recently announced the launch of its Clinicians’ Biosecurity Resource app for the iPhone.
The CBR was designed to give physicians the critical information needed to recognize the signs and symptoms of illnesses caused by six potential biological warfare agents, including anthrax, botulism, Hemorrhagic fever viruses, plague, Variola and tularemia, according to UPMC-CBN.org.
The center, a nonprofit research organization funded by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is providing the app free of charge through Apple’s iTunes App Store.
In the case of a biological weapons attack, rapid diagnosis and treatment would be essential. The CBR is intended to guide physicians who need to manage the care of patients who might have been exposed to deadly pathogens but may not have specialized in infectious diseases.
The CBR will be reviewed biannually and updated to ensure that each profile remains current and accurate. It is not intended to replace clinical guidance and the center urges clinicians to consult with the necessary agencies or specialists before making decisions about the individual treatments, UPMC-CBN.org reports.Each pathogen profile includes links to guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other major authorities. The profiles also contain a history of offensive weapons research into each agent (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: DTRA Issues Request For Handheld Biothreat Detector
Date: January 23, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency issued a request on Wednesday for information on the development of a handheld device that could be used by front-line soldiers to identify and characterize biothreats and disease agents.
The information request, released by the agency’s Joint Program Manager – Transformational Medical Technologies division, is meant to protect deployed military forces from emerging infectious diseases and biological warfare agents that could result from bioterrorism attacks.
The request is seeking information on existing technologies, including pathogen identification and characterization, chemical agent identification and sample preparation prior to analysis on a handheld device in an end-to-end, integrated system. Officials are only interested in technologies that have already been developed to the stage of a working prototype.
The prototype should be lightweight, easy-to-use and should include a handheld bio-identification system that will help those on the front-line to identify and characterize pathogens found in a sample. Military officials deem the importance of identifying bio-warfare and infectious disease agents above that of identifying chemical agents and biological toxins.
The component that prepares the samples must be combined with the
handheld bio-identifier and must be reliable for front-line operations
of the military. The process from the beginning to the end of analysis
should take less than one hour (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: U.S. Testing New Rapid Response Vaccine-Delivery Platform
Date: February 16, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Health officials in the United States are currently testing a new vaccine-delivery platform developed by the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Immunovaccine, Inc.
The DepoVax vaccine-delivery platform is intended for use in rapid response to a bioterrorist event involving either civilians or the military, according to TheChroncicleHerald.ca.
“Our platform seems to enhance the effectiveness of some vaccines that could be used to counter bioterrorism events,” Marc Mansour, Immunovaccine’s chief science officer, said, TheChronicleHerald.ca reports. “The challenge for military or civil authorities is to have a particular vaccine take effect as quickly as possible.”
Mansour said that DepoVax has the ability to generate an immune response rapidly.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases plans to include the vaccine-delivery platform in additional testing slated to begin this spring. DepoVax will be one of several vaccines and vaccine boosters to be included in the round of non-human primate tests.
Immunovaccine recently announced that DepoVax could serve to advance the development of next generation vaccines that could be used against the deadliest of biological agents, including anthrax and Marburg virus.
“This collaboration is consistent with Immunovaccine’s strategy for leveraging DepoVax to enhance the immunogenicity of even the best vaccine antigen candidates in as little as a single dose,” John Trizzino, the chief executive officer at Immunovaccine, said, TheChronicleHerald.ca reports (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: PositiveID To Debut New Biosensor
Date: February 23, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A subsidiary of PositiveID Corporation, a medical device and diagnostic developer, announced on Tuesday that it will present its Microfluidics-based Bioagent Autonomous Networked Detector system at a biodefense research meeting in February in Washington D.C.
MicroFluidic Systems will present the M-BAND system at the 10th Annual American Society for Microbiology Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting, which will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel between February 26 and February 29. The company will jointly exhibit the system with Hamilton Sundstrand and the Boeing Company.
M-BAND was developed by MFS under a contract with the Department of Homeland Security. The detector is an early warning system that is built to detect the intentional release of biological agents that have been aerosolized. The system runs autonomously for as many as 30 days while analyzing air continuously for the detection of toxins, viruses and bacteria. The device, used typically in high-traffic areas, can provide results in as little as three hours.
The results from instruments in the M-BAND system are in reported in real time via a secure wireless network to give an up to date and accurate status. The system can be used to detect for RNA-based organisms, DNA-based pathogens, toxins or all three simultaneously.
conference, approximately 1,000 decision makers and leaders in the biodefense
fields will discuss the critical research necessary to shape the future of
biodefense (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Navy Launches Fleetwide Effort Against
Date: April 20, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The U.S. Navy has taken major steps against biological weapons by launching an effort to equip sailors more effectively for biological and chemical warfare.
A decade ago, a Navy crew would only know if it had been infected with a biological agent after people started getting sick. Even just a few months ago, many ships might not have known for at least a few hours, the Virginian-Pilot reports.
“By then, everything could be contaminated,” Jeff Smith, a civilian engineer with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., said, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “It had to get faster.”
The Navy anticipates that by 2016, almost half its fleet will be outfitted with new technology that can identify biological agents in a matter of minutes. By 2018, all surface ships are expected to have equipment to detect most chemical threats immediately.
“We know there are many countries that have the capability to launch these kinds of attacks,” Smith said, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “No question, it’s a threat that our sailors have to be able to counter quickly.”
While Navy ships have had the capacity for detecting chemical and biological warfare agents for years, the new systems are faster, more accurate and easier to use. The biological attack system has now been installed on more than 50 ships. Sailors just need to flip a switch to turn on the automated system mounted permanently within the ship.
“You know almost immediately if there’s a problem,” Lt. Junior Grade Arthur Bond, the damage control assistant aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based Mahan, said, according to theVirginian-Pilot. “So you can start dealing with it immediately” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Foot-And-Mouth Disease Vaccine Developed In
Date: April 26, 2012
Abstract: With the US livestock industry on alert after a diagnosis of "mad cow" disease in California, the BBC has gained rare access to a high-security compound where a vaccine for another deadly animal virus is close to completion.
Hijacked planes, dirty bombs and cyber attacks are all terror threats the US takes very seriously.
But there is another that many Americans may not have considered - foot-and-mouth disease.
The illness is one of the world's most contagious animal viruses. Although it does not infect humans, an outbreak in the US could cost the economy more than $50bn (£31bn), experts estimate.
To avert such a calamity, scientists working for the US government have spent several years developing a foot-and-mouth vaccine. It is expected to be licensed for use in the next few months.
"This is probably one of the most important innovations in the last 60 years in foot-and-mouth disease," says Dr Luis Rodriguez, research leader of the foreign animal disease research unit at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, where the vaccine has been developed under top security.
"FMD is one of the largest burdens on animal health and production around the world. We pay attention to it when it gets into non-endemic countries like the UK - and if it ever came into the US it would be big news.
"But FMD is a burden every day on the lives of millions people around the world."
Foot-and-mouth causes havoc because it spreads so quickly. It infects cloven-hoofed animals such as cows, pigs, sheep and goats. Infected livestock have to be quarantined and are usually killed. Trade involving meat, dairy and other animal products comes to a standstill.
Vaccines already exist but are of limited use because veterinarians cannot distinguish vaccinated animals from infected animals - both test positive for foot-and-mouth.
That makes it difficult for a country to assure jittery importing nations its animals are free from the disease.
The new vaccine will come with an antibody test that will enable regulators to tell the difference, the researchers say.
And it will also be safe to manufacture in the US because it does not use the whole live virus and cannot replicate, says Dr Larry Barrett, director of Plum Island, a US Department of Homeland Security installation.
"In the US, you can only work on FMD in an island environment, which is why we came here 60 years ago," he says. "They wouldn't allow us on the mainland."
A government-operated ferry is the only way to reach the facility, north of New York's Long Island and just off the coast of Connecticut. No food or drink is allowed off the island to reduce the risk the virus will escape onto the mainland.
The vaccine works by triggering an immune response. A part of the foot-and-mouth virus is placed in a harmless vector - in this case a defective human virus.
The vaccine is then injected into the animal, providing it with the relevant genetic information its immune system needs to fight the foot-and-mouth virus.
"The animal actually makes the vaccine inside its body by producing the FMD protein necessary to create an immune response," says Dr Rodriguez.
"It's a very good innovation - the most effective way to date and very promising technology. I think it's going to revolutionise the way we look at FMD vaccines around the world today."
Research into new vaccines is also underway at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in the UK. In 2001 Britain was hit by a severe foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that devastated the farming and tourism industries.
More than 10 million sheep, cows and pigs were slaughtered in an attempt to contain the outbreak. Images of burning carcasses became the hallmark of the crisis.
government has funded this research so that we will have the tools available to
support a 'vaccinate to live' policy should we have another outbreak,"
says Dr Bryan Charleston, head of the livestock viral diseases program at the
That goal is still some years away, he says, but new approaches and scientific advances are giving cause for optimism.
The foot-and-mouth virus is a genome surrounded by a coat of proteins. The new vaccines use only the proteins - not the live genome part of the virus - which is why they are safe to produce, the scientists say.
Dr Charleston's British team is developing a vaccine that is produced in insect cells instead of a defective virus. Like the vaccine developed at Plum Island, it is extremely stable and can be deployed rapidly to stem an outbreak, he says.
"We have done the same sort of thing as scientists at Plum Island," he says.
"We just got there by a different route."
He hopes the vaccine will offer a longer lasting immunity to foot-and-mouth that will make it suitable for use in countries where the disease is endemic.
"In some cases current vaccines are only effective for three to four months which means livestock need to be vaccinated three or four times a year. The cost of gathering the animals alone is significant - it's just not practical," he says.
Only one major animal disease has been successfully eradicated so far - rinderpest - but scientists hope their work will one lead to the elimination of foot-and-mouth disease.
The last outbreak foot-and-mouth in the US occurred in 1929 and the biggest risk of the disease entering the country today comes mainly from infected animal imports.
There have been more
than half a dozen high alerts already this year when samples from animals
thought to be infected were flown by jet and helicopter to Plum Island for
testing. All the cases turned out to be false alarms (BBC, 2012).
Title: Burbank, California Purchases Biodetection Equipment
Date: March 9, 2012
Abstract: The city of Burbank, California, has made a purchase order with Universal Detection Technology for bioterrorism detection equipment, including the company’s 5-agent detection kit.
The order, placed following an independent congressional report that took to task the U.S. government for its failure to respond to the growing, serious threat of bioterrorism, is part of a continuing awareness of the growing threat of bioterrorism.
The January report was issued by the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. The commission gave an "F" letter grade to the government for failure to “enhance the nation’s capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties.”
“The order from the Burbank Fire Department and the recent order from the U.S. Army indicate the growing awareness of the threat of bioterrorism within the first responder community,” Jacques Tizabi, CEO of Universal Detection Technology, said. “Our goal is to continue to supply first responders and the military with the most advanced, high-performance bioagent detection equipment available in the market."
The city of Burbank, which is located north of downtown Los Angeles, is home to several major Hollywood studios, including ABC, NBC, Nickelodeon, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros.
The city, with a population of 105,000, is also home to the Bob Hope Airport, which services 4.9 million travelers per year (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: New Mobile Biothreat Detector Could Aid First Responders
Date: May 10, 2012
Abstract: BioFlow, a new handheld biological threat detection system, may help first responders to identify biological threats on site, including anthrax, bacterial agents, viruses and clinical markers.
The device, currently under development at The Mitre Corporation’s Bio-Nano Laboratory, may effectively save time, money and lives with quick and accurate identification of biological pathogens. The company has demonstrated the concept of the device for multiple government sponsors including the Department of Homeland Security, SignalScape reports.
“These portable detectors could become as common as automated external defibrillators among first responders’ tool kits,” Russell Graef, the leader of the project at Mitre, said.
BioFlow uses antibody-coated magnetic microspheres to extract and identify particular targets like viruses, hormones or viruses. The device is able to identify targets in multiple types of samples, including blood, soil, water and urine.
“You have to know what you want to test for,” Graef said. “The system cannot identify a true unknown, only what the microspheres are designed to detect. For example, a microsphere set designed to detect clinical markers—such as the hormones that indicate heart attack—won’t identify bio-threat toxins such as SEB.”
One of the most important aspects of the technology is its ability to save time and money by not having to send samples out to a laboratory and wait for results.
“The real cost savings will be in the re-use of the system and the number of samples a customer runs using it,” Graef said. “It’s not going to do a high through-put level of screening, as a lab would do, but it could process two or three samples in 10 to 20 minutes for near real-time screening, and in that case it could be very affordable to use. The cost savings is in the fast turnaround time—being able to perform the analysis on site, rather than shipping the sample to a lab and awaiting results.”
Graef said that sponsors have positively received the demonstrations thus far and that a prototype is in development (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: PositiveID Testing New Detector For BioWatch Procurement
Date: May 25, 2012
Abstract: Positive ID Corporation is currently conducting tests on a new bioagent detection system that is capable of remotely identifying DNA-based pathogens, with or without either RNA-based organisms or toxins.
Positive ID hopes its M-BAND, or Microfluidics-based Bioagent Autonomous Networked Detector, will be part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s $3 billion procurement for the BioWatch program, according to Homeland Security News Wire.
The M-BAND is configured to detect five organisms that are on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Select Agents List, a requirement for BioWatch.
The detector was developed under a DHS contract as an early warning system to monitor for the intentional release of aerosolized biological agents. It can run remotely and autonomously for up to thirty days before being serviced. It can continuously scan and analyze air samples in high-traffic areas and report results in as little as three hours.
“As we prepare for the final request for proposal for BioWatch to be released from DHS, we have continued our internal testing of M-BAND,” William J. Caragol, the chairman and CEO of PositiveID, said, Homeland Security News Wire reports. “Our system is fully functional and, we believe, one of the only technologies capable of addressing the requirements of the BioWatch procurement. Furthermore, we believe our system not only performs better than the competition but also has a lower total cost of ownership” (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: 'Virtual Bacteria' Created By Scientists
Date: July 31, 2012
Abstract: The computer programme developed by researchers at Stanford University is an exact replica of the Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium, including its DNA and all the other components of its single cell.
The scientists hope that the simulation will help them explore the subtleties of how a cell works, unravel the genetic causes of disease, and predict how new therapies could prevent or treat illness.
Prof Markus Covert, who led the study published in the Cell journal, told the BBC: "The public hear about a new 'cancer gene' being discovered ... cancer is not a one-gene problem.
"There are thousands of factors interacting in very complicated ways and for us to understand a disease like that, we really need to start going back and trying to see if we can understand the whole cell."
To help understand the complexity of a cell Prof Covert and his team
decided to recreate the entire life cycle of M. genitalium, a sexually
transmitted parasite, which was chosen for its biological simplicity.
Information about the biology of the bacterium was taken from more than 900 scientific journals and programmed into the computer simulation, with each cell comprising half a gigabyte of data.