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CBNRE / BioSecurity

How Canadian Researchers Reconstituted an Extinct Poxvirus for $100,000 Using Mail-Order DNA
by Kai Kupferschmidt
Science, 7 July 2017

Eradicating smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases in history, took humanity decades and cost billions of dollars. Bringing the scourge back would probably take a small scientific team with little specialized knowledge half a year and cost about $100,000.

That’s one conclusion from an unusual and as-yet unpublished experiment performed…


Defining Dual-Use Research: When Scientific Advances Can Both Help and Hurt Humanity
by Nicholas G. Evans and Aerin Commins
The Conversation, 2 February 2017

Scientific research can change our lives for the better, but it also presents risks – either through deliberate misuse or accident. Think about studying deadly pathogens; that’s how we can learn how to successfully ward them off, but it can be a safety issue too, as when CDC workers were exposed…


Ebola is Not a Weapon
by Nicholas G. Evans
Slate, 10 October 2014

Stop it. Just stop it. Ebola isn’t a potential weapon for terrorists.

It isn’t, as reported by Forbes and the Daily Mail, a low-tech weapon of bioterror for ISIS. It isn’t the final refuge of a lone wolf on a suicide mission, in the words of Fox News. It isn’t…


What Science Should We Fund? Questioning New Policy on H5N1 Gain-of-Function Research
by Nicholas G. Evans
Scientific American Blogs, 15 January 2013

Science can be risky business, but it is important to know what those risks are. It is established wisdom that we need to experiment on viruses, for example, to better defend against emerging infectious diseases. But there is a fine line between creating a new strain of avian influenza to…


Middle East Respiratory Virus Came from Camels not Terrorists
by Ian M. Mackay, Katherine Arden, Lisa Murillo, Maia Majumder, Nicholas G. Evans, and Stephen Goldstein
The Conversation, 30 July 2014

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a tiny, spiky package of fat, proteins and genes that was first found in a dying man in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Since then, we have learnt a little more about the virus. We know that nearly 90% of…


Lab Safety Needs to be More Open in the Face of Risky Pandemic Flu Research
by Nicholas G. Evans
The Conversation, 18 July 2014

The danger of reporting findings before peer review is that scientists often can’t talk about the details of their research, which can lead to hype or fear in the media.

A recent example of this is a controversial influenza study led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, first…


Avian Superflu and the Censorship of Science
by Nicholas G. Evans
The Conversation, 22 December 2011

Two studies, one carried out in the Netherlands by Ron Fouchier and the other in Japan by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, are causing controversy over the creation of a new strain of H5N1 Avian Influenza or “bird flu” in ferrets.

The studies have resulted in a new strain of bird flu that’s…


The Good, the Bad and the Deadly – The Dark Side of Biotechnology
by Nicholas G. Evans
The Conversation, 15 May 2011

The life sciences provide a great opportunity to improve our lives. But our newfound power in this field also gives us the means to destroy ourselves.

In 2002, Dr Eckard Wimmer and his lab at the State University of New York, published the results of a very interesting experiment…