Dual-Use Biotechnology Threats in a Post 9/11 World: The 2002 Synthesis of Poliovirus?

Date & time

Jan 29, 2007, 4:00-5:30 pm EST


Dr. Kathleen M. Vogel is Assistant Professor of Peace Studies/Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University's Einaudi Center for International Studies. Prior to taking her current position, she was a William C. Foster Fellow with the Bureau of Nonproliferation in the Office of Proliferation Threat Reduction at the U.S. State Department. She has also served as Ed A. Hewett Fellow for the National Council of Eurasian and East European Research with joint appointments from Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico's Institute of Public Policy. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University.

Dr. Vogel is interested in understanding the technical and social factors influencing the proliferation of biological weapons technology to terrorist groups and countries of proliferation concern, and related security issues involving dual-use biotechnology.

Commentator: Michael J. Imperiale, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School

Co-sponsorship: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School

ABSTRACT: Post 9/11 there has been increasing policy concern over advances in biotechnology and their implications for bioterrorism. Many academic, governmental, and non-governmental reports argue that these advances are creating a 'new biothreat space' that is more facile and dangerous. In order to interrogate these claims, this talk will examine one controversial science experiment, the artificial synthesis of poliovirus, published in Science. In and around Washington, the open scientific publication of this experiment has been framed as an example of a potential 'blueprint' or 'cookbook' for would-be bioterrorists. However, what of the current framing of the experiment as a 'blueprint' for terrorism is wrong, or at best, incomplete? How would an alternative framing of the poliovirus experiment have different, yet important, implications for the larger bioterrorism discourse and policy formulations in Washington and abroad?