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Report by US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism

On 3 December, the US 'Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism' released its findings on preventing nuclear and biological terrorism threats. As part of its fact-finding mission, the Commission visited ISTC in Moscow on 23 September 2008.

See link 'US Graham Commission Visits ISTC': 

http://www.istc.ru/istc/istc.nsf/va_WebPages/CongressEng

ISTC Executive Director, Adriaan van der Meer, commented:
"ISTC notes the Findings of the Report and welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Commission during its fact-finding visit to Russia in September 2008. The Report Findings recommend that particular attention be given to biological threat reduction and ISTC's developing work in this area through the ISTC Biological Threat Reduction Initiative (which includes Disease Surveillance) and the Counter Bio-terrorism Initiative expects to offer a significant contribution to US and other governmental nonproliferation policy". 

Background:

Biological Threat Reduction Targeted Initiative (which includes Disease Surveillance)

Many of the highly infectious diseases in the world are endemic in parts of the former Soviet Union. In addition, due to the developments in the early nineties the capacity of the existing systems of disease surveillance was reduced. Therefore, this new ISTC initiative will support:

- Upgrading of disease surveillance 
- Characterization of existing libraries of infectious diseases, using modern methodologies;
- Improvement of biosafety and biosecurity of facilities that have libraries of infectious diseases or work with them;
- Training of the scientists who work with infectious diseases to international standards.

This Biological Threat Reduction Initiative deals mainly with the protection of libraries and surveillance of infectious disease or prevention of incidents with a bio-agent (either intentionally or accidentally).

Counter Bio-terrorism Initiative

In addition to this ‘preventive’ initiative, other activities are needed that deal with detection and response, which are the main objectives of our Counter Bio-terrorism Initiative. Based on analysis and consultations with experts in the field, ISTC formulated an Initiative that is aimed at developing:

- New techniques and technologies for the rapid detection and/or diagnosis of (highly) dangerous microorganisms. One of the first steps in preventing incidents is to have a reliable detection system in place. However, if an incident occurs, then it is also essential to be able to quickly,
reliably and cheaply determine to what kind of agent an individual is exposed to. Therefore, there is a need for robust and reliable field diagnostic kits, as well as high throughput clinical diagnostics;
- New diagnostics for food supplies to detect dangerous bio-agents, as well as measures to protect the food supply chain, which is one of the G-8 priorities. The food supply chain is inherently vulnerable to non-state actors because of the many different stages and actors involved. Additionally, an incident of contamination with a bio-agent of food will have great effects on the general population, as well as significant economical impact;
- Emergency planning, reporting, first response, and epidemiological analysis after the event of an incident our outbreak

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