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Cutting Edge Chemical and Biological Defense Science: Hot Topics at CBD S&T 2019

Credit: Global Biodefense

In a few short weeks, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) will host the 2019 Chemical and Biological Defense Science & Technology (CBD S&T) Conference at the Duke Energy Convention Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hundreds of scientists, engineers, and leaders within the industry will be there to discuss combatting chemical and biological threats.

If you needed another reason to attend – here are some of the posters and events you won’t want to miss:

Monday, November 18th


Doing Business with DTRA: For Government, Industry, Small Business and Academia

Mr. Mark DeGroodt, Mr. Ricky McGlothin, and Mr. Larry Pollack, DTRA

Learn how to leverage your expertise and capabilities with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. This session includes information about DoD and DTRA acquisition processes as well as new funding opportunities. 

Threat Reduction of Emerging Pathogens/Toxins Using Antibody Therapeutics (TREAT) 5/25: Combating Known, Emerging and the Future Threats Through Rapid Biologics Based Discovery and Development


From antibiotic resistance to viral agents, there is a desperate need for new approaches to combatting microbial threats. “In this presentation, we will discuss a pathway for monoclonal antibody (mAb) discovery and development utilizing a global network of collaborators within government, academia and industry. Currently, hundreds of antibodies are either approved or currently in clinical assessment employing a range of constructs to include antibody-drug conjugates, modifications to improve efficacy and ADME, as well as emerging antibody formats such as bi-specific Abs.”

Tuesday, November 19th


Portable Chemical Detection Technology With Ultra-low False Alarms

Joshua Whiting, Sandia National Laboratories

“Sandia National Labs has developed several generations of chemical detection systems enabled by microfabricated components. These systems have the demonstrated ability to detect low-concentration chemical threats in the presence of high-concentration interferents such as humidity, diesel fumes, and cleaning agents. These systems can operate autonomously, feature ultra low false alarm rates, and are well-positioned for carriage on UAS, UGV, or as soldier wearables.”

Complementary Diagnostics for Infectious Diseases

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Diane Dutt and Dr. Julie Boylan

Talks include a presentation on BARDA’s DRIVe Early Notification to Act, Control and Treat (ENACT) program; leveraging host-protein responses to rapidly triage potentially infected warfighters; and an anthrax lethal factor fluorescently-labeled peptide substrate diagnostic for use in plasma.

U.S. Government Perspectives on Emerging Biotechnology, Biosecurity, and Bioeconomics

Panelists will discuss scientific and policy perspectives on emerging biotechnology, biosecurity and bioeconomics issues.

  • Ms. Kelly Chafin, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President
  • Dr. D. Christian Hassell, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Alexander Titus, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Department of Defense
  • Mr. Ian Watson, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
  • LTC Barbara Cloutier, Acting Division Chief, Advanced & Emerging Threats Division, DTRA
  • Dr. Donald Cronce, Team Lead, Threat Agent Science, DTRA
  • Mr. Richard Mathieson, Science & Technology Manager, Threat Agent Science, DTRA

“Recent breakthroughs and the pace of advances in biology and biotechnology impact many parts of the United States Government. While these breakthroughs and advances provide many benefits to the United States, including in the areas of human health and the economy, Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) issues must also be considered. This panel discussion will provide scientific and policy perspectives on emerging biotechnology, biosecurity and bioeconomics issues from several United States Government offices.”


The Biodefense Policy Landscape Tool (B-PLAT): A Resource to Inform Decision Makers on Interagency Roles and Responsibilities Related to BW Attacks

Poster #26, Rachel Bartholomew of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Billions have been spent on biodefense in the United States since 9/11, intersecting dozens of agencies and responsibilities. What are these roles, responsibilities, and the true landscape of biodefense though? Pacific Northwest National Lab worked to creat a new tool – The resulting tool, the Biodefense Policy Landscape Analysis Tool, captures over 400 responsibilities in US Code and Presidential Directives , identifying the specific requirement and role of a given agency to respond to an intentional biological attack. Furthermore, to enhance warfighter preparedness and response to decision making following an intention biological release, the B-PLAT can be utilizing during biological weapons table top exercises to assist decision makers in identifying key Department of Defense requirements, the specific agencies, and their roles.”

Improving Short-Term Forecast for Disease Outbreaks Using Genomic Data

Poster #36, Nileena Velappan of B-10, Los Alamos National Laboratory

“Analytics for Investigation of Disease Outbreaks (AIDO) is a web accessible decision support tool, currently available in DTRA’s Chem-Bio Integration Platform that facilitates increased situational awareness during an unfolding outbreak and enables informed decisions on mitigation strategies. Genome Analytics for Biosurveillance (GenoSurv) is a DTRA funded, LANL developed visual analytic that provides genetic information on pathogen characteristics of clinical as well as environmental samples from around the world. Complementary features of both these analytics are being integrated and their utility to facilitate spatiotemporal forecasting of disease outbreaks will be investigated.”

Wearable Synthetic Biology for Threat Detection

Poster # 70, Peter Nguyen of Harvard University.

In the pursuit of more rapid, field-ready diagnostics, synthetic biology might be the answer. “Unfortunately, current efforts at developing synthetic biology in wearables are hampered by the necessity of maintaining living cells in a wearable format, concerns with biological containment of genetically modified organisms, and challenges with on-board detection. Here, we introduce a freeze-dried cell-free system that is shelf-stable and is integrated into a flexible wearable substrate. This platform can generate a colorimetric output for visual detection or a fluorescent output that is detected through integrated fiber optics.“

Development of a Novel Analytical Tool for Clinical Diagnosis of Infection With Biothreat Agents and High-Risk Endemic Pathogens to Guide Diagnostic Testing and Early Treatment

Poster # 139, Jaleal Sanjak of Gryphon Scientific.

“Early detection of infectious diseases is critical in both military and civilian environments. Regardless of the source, there is a vital need for analytical tools to help guide diagnostics. “Gryphon Scientific proposes to develop an analytical tool for differential diagnosis of infection with biothreat agents and endemic pathogens of concern, based on patient symptoms and demographic, behavioral, and geographic risk factors (“Biothreat-DDx”). The tool will calculate a probability of infection with specific pathogens, which can inform a clinical diagnosis to guide diagnostic testing and treatment decisions. To develop the Biothreat-DDx tool, we will adapt our existing differential diagnosis tool for tick-borne diseases (TBDs), developed previously with DTRA funding.”

Wednesday, November 20th


Science and Technology Advances for Chemical and Biological Protection

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Kendra McCoy and Dr. Annie Lu

Speakers representing multiple universities, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and the Naval Research Lab will discuss topics from zirconia-based aerogels for the sorption and degradation of chemical weapons to fabrics coated with switchable polymers to act as chemical weapon threat protection.

Artificial Intelligence for Early Drug Discovery

DTRA Session Chair: Dr. Kensey Amaya and Dr. Sweta Batni

Johnathan Allen of Lawrence Livermore National Lab discusses machine learning for designing new small molecule drugs, US Army’s Anders Wallqvist gives insight into deep neural networks for predicting liver toxicity, and more.

Designing Layered Pathogen Medical Countermeasures With Pathogen Variation Analysis

Darrell Ricke, MIT Lincoln Laboratory

“When used in combinations, negative interactions between MCMs are possible. Comparisons of available pathogen protein sequences (reverse vaccinology or vaccinomics), residue variation analysis, and structures (structural vaccinology) provides important roadmaps for creating new MCMs that can be layered together. An alternative strategy for creating MCMs would be to redirect immune responses to targets with low variability creating MCMs effective across multiple stains. This approach is presented for creating vaccines and mAbs for passive immunizations for layered MCMs.”


Application of Cooling Towers for Detection of Biological, Chemical, and Radiological Agents of Concern

Poster #9, Robin Brigmon of Savannah Rive National Laboratory.

“Cooling towers are common in industrial, municipal, and military environments and as a result of the water retaining particulates and other materials from the air. “These features offer an opportunity to monitor for contaminants of concern (COC) including chemical, biological, and radiological species. Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has demonstrated that further concentration of particulates entrained in the cooling tower water and biofilm, including in organic metals, radionuclides, and biological agents, was possible using Concentration Systems.”

Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens by Microbiome-Based Therapeutics

Poster #25, Anand Kumar of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Harnessing the power of the healthy human microbiome to combat antimicrobial resistance (AR). As proof of concept, by utilizing our developed and validated microbiome screening platform, we attempt to discover therapeutic bacterial species from healthy human skin microbiomes that naturally inhibit AR Staphylococcus aureus strains, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin- resistant S. aureus (VRSA) strains. To accomplish this, we will co-capture healthy skin microbiome inhabitants with a strain of MRSA in millions of microdroplets and co-culture them in optimal growth conditions.”

Enhancement of DNA Vaccines for Ebola Virus Via Improved Plasmid Designs

Poster # 83, John Suschak of USAMRIID.

“We previously demonstrated that DNA vaccines expressing the codon-optimized Ebola virus (EBOV) glycoprotein (GP) gene provides protective immunity to mice and nonhuman primates. To determine if modifications to the plasmid backbone could improve immune responses to the EBOV GP DNA vaccine in mice, we constructed EBOV GP DNA vaccines using minimalized NanoplasmidTM expression vectors that are smaller than traditional plasmids used for DNA vaccination. These vectors have improved uptake and persist longer in transfected cells, resulting in enhanced immune responses and improved immunological memory. We compared the vaccine potential of our traditional pWRG7077 backbone to a nanoplasmid vector and to two nanoplasmid vectors designed to improve innate immune responses by co-expressing a retinoic acid-inducible gene 1 (RIG-I) agonist or the RIG-I agonist and CpG RNA.”

Thursday, November 21st


Science and Technology Advances for Chemical and Biological Hazard Mitigation

DTRA Session Chairs: Dr. Bernadette Higgins and Dr. Glenn Lawson

Modelling disinfection of biological agents by using Bacillus thuringiensis spores, assessing chemical protective capabilities in coating technologies, and decontamination of chemical weapon agents.

Assessing the Feasibility of Using Wearable Devices to Detect Infection Through Controlled Human Infection Studies

Brandy White, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Wearable devices have enormous potential to provide real-time automated infection detection capabilities for Warfighters deployed to austere environments. However, the development of these technologies requires that we address several critical research gaps, including the systematic collection of wearable vital-sign data during infection, the development of detection algorithms, and clinical validation. Controlled human infection studies, in which subjects are deliberately infected with a pathogen to assess the efficacy of an experimental drug or vaccine, are an ideal platform for wearable vital-sign research.”

Register here for the the 2019 Chemical and Biological Defense Science & Technology Conference. Registration closes 1 Nov 2019.

Saskia Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, is an infection prevention epidemiologist and biodefense researcher whose work primarily focuses on the role of infection prevention in global health security and biodefense efforts. She holds a PhD in Biodefense from George Mason University, a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology, a Masters of Arts in International Security Studies, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Classical History, with a specialization on disease in ancient Rome, from the University of Arizona. She is a certified infection preventionist and fellow of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative. She can be reached at

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