Kathryn Millett

Kathryn Millett

Kathryn Millett is the Director of Biosecure, a company dedicated to safeguarding
the bioeconomy, and strengthening biosecurity through education, training and policy advocacy

Location Oxford, UK

Achievements

Activity

  • @PeterRiley it can be a rather heavy on the admin, but there are also automated systems and physical that helps this such as pathogen inventories, visitor checkpoints & logs, staff checks and lab usage logs etc (i.e. the sorts of the things discussed in week 3). Educating people working in the lab of potential biorisks is helping generate and sustain that...

  • Thank you very much for your comments, Paul, here and elsewhere. It is great to get some feedback from learners. If you have anything else you would like to see from this course (perhaps less of some topics, and a deeper focus on others), be sure to let us know. We are on twitter at [@]nextgenbiosec. Happy learning!

  • @PaulMacDougall Thanks for your feedback, Paul. We always try and update the course, so we will incorporate your comment.

  • I agree with you there. There are cases all over where the dose problem has proved deadly. One of the standout instances for me was the October 2002 Moscow theatre hostage incident where Russian law enforcement released carfentanyl and remifentanil into a theatre overtaken by Chechen militants. Of the 700 hostages, over 120 people died from the effects of the...

  • Great ideas, Roberto. It's been fascinating to see the power of local, regional and national information campaigns within different countries. From the UK perspective, we've certainly seen the effects of miscommunications and the ease at which key messages can get muddled if not stated clearly, so getting those messages right is essential.

  • @NkemTorimiro We hope you find this informative and a good basis for your understanding. Welcome to the course!

  • Thanks for these answers, Roberto. Out of interest, to what extent were you made aware of biosecurity concerns during your education and work? Are there more ways of raising awareness of these issues within Spain that you can identify?

  • Thank you! We'll make the correction.

  • Thanks for this suggestion, Roberto. We will continue to update and develop the course, so this kind of feedback is very important and useful. And you also make some solid points in your opinions above. Great work!

  • A well-reasoned opinion, Barbara. Of course, it is tricky to balance scientific freedom with governance mechanisms designed to reduce risks. This is why courses such as these aim to raise awareness of these issues as a means of creating a culture of responsibility where people habitually consider risks are part of their everyday activities.

  • @PeterRiley Very sadly, this has turned out to be true. Another area regarding chemical weapons that is rather grey, is that of the the use of riot control agents in warfare. This is outlawed under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but is permitted as a domestic law enforcement method although this is also fraught with differences of opinion. Here's a link on...

  • Again, a well thought out response. You've really engaged on this, Roberto. That's fantastic!

  • Well thought out answer. Thanks, Roberto.

  • Many thanks, Roberto! it's a tricky issue and sometimes quite 'fuzzy' - and often ignored. We appreciate your interest and your comment.

  • That's excellent to hear, Miguel, but remember that sometimes it is very hard to foresee what others might do with your research. But it is critical to try and make sure that you're responsible in both what you research and how and whether you publish your work. Well done.

  • We will note this one too and address it as a video at the end of the course. Please keep posing your interesting questions!

  • That's a valid question and a complex one. I will note this down and we'll get some experts to respond to this in the last course wrap-up video. Thanks, Ahmad!

  • A very thoughtful reply. Thanks Luca!

  • That's an interesting take, Ahmad, and thanks for your interaction.

  • Very true - but not biological weapons or weapons banned under international conventions and treaties that they have signed up to.

  • There are now 183 States parties to the convention, leaving just 10 states that have neither signed nor ratified the convention: Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia (Federated States of), Namibia, South Sudan, and
    Tuvalu.

    I would actually dispute that Kiribati and Tuvalu are NOT members as they committed to be bound by treaties...

  • The BWC primarily aims to prevent the development and use of biological weapons through transparency and maintaining a strong international norm against such use. There were attempts over the last few decades to build a stronger verification regime that would look at compliance, however, these have not reached international agreement. It is difficult to stop...

  • @PeterRiley Hi Peter. I'll pass this on to Maureen and post her response.

  • @PaulCliffordHough Good points. Sadly, whistleblower issues are universal whatever the field. Perhaps much more thinking needs to be done around this.

  • @FrancesB Go and see Brett Edwards if you haven't already (when you can, of course)

  • Personnel reliability screening is a pillar of laboratory biosecurity. The screening starts at the hiring procedure with verifying not only the candidate's qualifications but their backgrounds and references - looking at issues such as whether they are compatible with the group or have caused safety or security problems in the past while working for other...

  • Hi Sam. Physical safety does become more important as the biohazard level increases. This is because the more dangerous the pathogen, the more security and safety precautions are needed. This would also correlate to a rise in expenses as BSL4 and BSL3 labs clearly require more specialised equipment and increased security measures.

  • Please do watch our weekly wrap up video at the end of Week 3 to see Maureen Ellis talk about biosafety precautions for lab work on COVID-19 and why biosecurity is especially important as the pandemic continues.

    If you have any questions that you'd like our experts to answer, just pop it in the comments or tweet us at @nextgenbiosec.

  • Fantastic, Ameila. Glad to have you with us and hope you find it useful.

  • It's been interesting to see the news articles on alleged hacking of COVID-19 vaccine data and to see if there is any further proof of this: https://www.wired.com/story/china-hackers-covid-19-spying-vaccine/

  • @PedroJosePinedaCorrales Hi Pedro. We have started a new run of the course and are currently in week 3. We have added some new content, trying to look at COVID-19, as well as on hoaxes, biological weapons use allegations, disease preparedness and biosafety in the time of COVID-19. Hope to see you there!

  • Once again, you are researching into the issue beyond what we've already introduced. Fantastic! FYI - we introduce the UNSC Secretary-General's mechanism in Week 4.

  • Thanks for this Luca. We are delighted that you are independently researching the issue and posting additional information here.

  • While this made it more difficult for the international community to identify the programme as pursuing an offensive capability, the scientific community in SA was very small & the work done at the R&D facilities involved in the programme were an open secret.

    And yet, there were no whistleblowers. In fact, the head of the project - Dr Wouter Basson -...

  • @PaulCliffordHough I would agree with you that in modern times it would seem easier to identify and expose any covert BW activities. I asked originally because your comment made me think of South Africa's Project Coast, among other examples of States managing to hide their illicit activities.

    Project Coast was a biological and chemical warfare programme...

  • Again, excellent points made. There is much concern over the number of people who are suffering from other diseases and health issues as resources are diverted towards COVID-19 - a situation that is tragically worsened by the production of fake medications.

  • I hadn't heard those particular claims, Ahmad. Thank you for bringing them to our attention. Governments and community leaders should be working hand-in-hand on getting out accurate messages, but that's not easy and sometimes not possible.

  • Really well-thought out answer, Paul. We appreciate you giving us your views.

    just one question: who did you mean would be raising the alarm? States or those working within a biological weapons programme?

  • Great reply, Luca. And one that brings in the interconnected nature of the 'web of prevention' which we will be looking at more in Week 4.

  • Thanks for giving your opinion, Ahmad.

  • In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Health Regulations legally require states to notify the WHO of all (public health) events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern under Annex 2. This would include COVID-19.

    https://www.who.int/ihr/survellance_response/case_definitions/en/

  • Great points, Paul. With our world more interconnected than ever, disease is spread so much easily and widely. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, States are obliged to report to the WHO any cases of 'epidemic=prone infectious diseases', such as yellow fever, plague, Dengue fever and flu.

    Although all cases and deaths from such diseases should...

  • Good philosophical question, Ahmad, and one that we likely won't know the answer to for a long time to come.

  • @DidarAlam Hi Didar. Fabulous to have you on board. Do join in with any comments and questions in the comments section and we'll try and answer any questions you have. Meanwhile, enjoy the course and we hope you find it useful.

  • Student interaction can be so informative. We would love it if more people responded in the comments. Hopefully, there will be more conversation as they topics become more detailed beyond this general introductory week. Thanks for sticking with us!

  • Good point, Lula. We do tend to forget about these aspects. Interestingly, the UK's main focus when first developing biological weapons was the production of anthrax-laced 'linseed 'cattle cakes', designed to infect the German cow population. This project was called 'Operation Vegetarian'. There are many cases of states designing biological weapons for use...

  • Really happy to have you with us, Karla

  • Delighted to have you back, Wim!

  • Perhaps it's more useful to describe the effects in terms of harm rather than good/bad? The idea behind the dual-use concept is that everyone should be considering how things might be misused, even when an artefact/piece of knowledge is intended for good.

  • Excellent and well-researched reply, Richard. Thank you.

  • Great answer, Anne. The lens through which information is given has clear effect on how events and actions are perceived.

    On Agent Orange, it also had a direct impact on the health of those who were exposed, both in the short and long term across generations. The use of white phosphorus is analogous as it was not deigned primarily for use against human...

  • This is fantastically well-thought out and reasoned argument.

  • HI Richard. The last sentence is really to highlight the effect a biological weapon _could_have, but these are concerns that will be currently being asked within the security community. Some biosecurity experts are also concerned that the theories on social media - and by some States against others - that COVID-19 was man-made or deliberately dispersed, could...

  • HI Christopher. Good point. I will add this as something we can provide more information on in the weekly wrap-up video.

  • Hi Richard. This is a good question. I will add this as an issue to be discussed in this week's wrap up video as it ties into concerns over DIY biology and what can be done in home and community labs.

  • Thanks for your comment, Christopher. We've also added a new section on cyber-biosecurity which deals with laboratories keeping their information safe. This issue has cropped up in the press this week with allegations of hacking into companies and entities working to develop a vaccine, and there has also been a concerning article in Nature that lays out how to...

  • Hi Richard and welcome. This is what we like to hear! We hope you find the course useful. We will be updating the course as more lessons are learned from COVID-19, but meanwhile please do ask us anything you need in the comments. We will be doing a weekly round up that picks some questions from the week and discusses them. If you have a burning question, or a...

  • Happy to have you, Deborah. We really hope you find it interesting!

  • That's brilliant, Frances. Where are you studying? If you have any questions, drop us a direct message or write it in the comments and we'll try to answer it for you. Meanwhile, enjoy the course and we hope you find it useful.

  • Great, Abhay! Delighted to have you and hope you find this course useful and interesting.

  • Welcome, Jackie. Fabulous to have you on board. If you have questions, just let us know. We will be doing a weekly wrap up video at the end of each week, so if you have any pressing questions, just let us know in the comments or by direct message. You will likely find Week 3 more relevant to your career, so look out for that. We will be updating the course as...

  • Hi Jane. We're very happy to you've joined us and look forward to hearing your medical insights in the discussions. If you have any questions for us as you go along, please just add them in the comments.

  • Welcome, Panagiotis. Congratulations on your accomplishment and we hope you find this course interesting and useful.

  • Hi Gemma. Really happy to have you here and looking forwards to your insight and perspectives from the healthcare aspect. Please do join in discussions as we go along. We hope you find the course interesting!

  • Hi Anne, and glad to have us with us. We hope you find the course interesting, so please do let us know as you go through the weeks.

  • Welcome, Christopher. I'm sure you have a lot of experience and insight into some of these issues. Please do share them as the weeks continue, and give us feedback on areas that we could expand on or clarify. Hope you find the course useful.

  • Welcome, Prem. If you have any questions, please add them in the comments - or message me - and we will try and answer them for you. This is a basic course on biosecurity, and we will updating as the year progresses, particularly in regard to lessons learned from the pandemic, so if there's anything you think should be added to the course, do let us know. ...

  • Welcome, Lucy. We are impressed that you're taking personal time to further your education! We hope you find the course interesting and useful and do let us know if you have any feedback or burning questions. Enjoy.

  • Love in the time of COVID-19? :)

  • Hi Andrea. That sounds fantastic! Don't forget that you can download, share and reuse any of the resources in the course. If you need anything else, send me a message. And if you have any questions, please just use the comments section and we will try and get back to you, or answer it in the weekly wrap up videos posted after each week. We hope you find the...

  • Hi Abhay. Very pleased to have you on the course and we hope you find it interesting and helpful. Please do use the comments section to let us know if you have any questions.