The instability in today’s geopolitical situation is cause for concern, especially concerning preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Threats to the international community are on the rise. Industry experts, including those from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Noblis, gathered for the Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Digital Age symposium to discuss how government agencies are looking to stay one step ahead to protect the homeland and our deployed resources. Industry leaders at the symposium assessed the use of data to monitor potential warning signs as well as technologies, developed by companies including Noblis, to r protect and counter threats.
“What we’re trying to accomplish here is quicker, better, faster, more accurate detection,” explained Gary Rasicot, acting assistant secretary of the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office at DHS.
Sterling Thomas, Ph.D., fellow and chief scientist, Defense and Homeland Security, Noblis, presented an overview of biological weapons and the technologies Noblis is developing to detect and defend against them. “We’re trying to figure out what the heck people are doing,” he said, referring to the use of CRISPR and other new technologies that can genetically engineer microbes for multiple purposes.
This is not new. Use of biological weapons dates to at least 400 B.C., Thomas said, making them the oldest known weapon of mass destruction. Long before someone weaponized the Unites States Postal Service by sending ricin-laden letters to government officials, ancient archers shot at enemies with pathogen-laced arrows. Dumping the carcasses of dead animals into an enemy’s water supply was a surefire means of rendering it unfit to drink, Thomas said. And when all else failed, smuggling a contagious sick person into an enemy’s camp could produce more casualties than a skilled swordsman’s midnight raid.
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