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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds PROFESSOR RAINA MACINTYRE: Now, let’s ask, if you publish a method for creating a 3D printer down on the internet, what’s the probability that someone who wants to harm people will use that method. If a method for genetic engineering of pathogenic viruses is published, what’s the probability that terrorists will use it? Think about that. Now, the other issue to think about is insider threat. This whole concept of being able to trust someone because they’re a doctor, a scientist, a professor, it’s a fallacy. There are just numerous cases of misconduct in science, some involving infectious diseases. Insider threat is a real issue.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds In fact, the US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction said, given the high level of know how needed, we should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists. In fact, in the 2001 anthrax attack in the United States, it was a US Army scientist who became the main suspect. And that led to the Fink Report in 2004. Insider threat is classically seen as stealing of secrets in the corporate world. But in biological science, it may also include illegal or risky research that’s not sanctioned. The same factors apply as any other types of crime, greed, revenge, divided loyalty, blackmail, ego, work or family problems, or ideology.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 seconds But additional factors include patents on drugs and vaccines, fame, high impact publications, grant funding, and funding of laboratories. So you may have lone wolf insiders or insiders who are colluding with outside groups. In fact, terrorist groups may seek to infiltrate labs from the grassroots, through junior scientists, PhD students, or they may coop senior scientists within. So in other words, universities, defence, and research institutions are at high risk of insider threat. Where does dual use research of concern occur? It occurs in universities, scientific institutions, do-it-yourself labs, homes, anywhere. Do-it-yourself biology is a rising phenomenon. They are DIY biology labs all over the world, including New York, Sydney, San Francisco.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds And the philosophy here is that anyone should be free to experiment, and do experiments, can just walk off the street and experiment in these labs. It’s very hard to monitor and place these kind of laboratories.

Bioterrorism and laboratory risk

In this video, Professor MacIntyre will discuss the various forms of laboratory risks and how they relate to bioterrorism. The different levels of laboratory protections against high risk biological agents will be outlined.

After watching this video, discuss the answer to this question in the comments section below:

What are some of the things that could go wrong with laboratory protections that could lead to the release of a biological agent? Are there any examples you can think of where this has occurred?

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This video is from the free online course:

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Public Health Dimensions

UNSW Sydney