netic engineering and biotechnology that will make biological agents more potent or damaging. Included in this evaluation will be the degree to which the integration of multiple advancing technologies over the next five to ten years could result in a synergistic effect.
Identify the current and potential future capabilities that could enable the ability of individuals, organizations, or countries to identify, acquire, master, and independently advance these technologies for both beneficial and hostile purposes.
Identify and recommend the knowledge and tools that will be needed by the national security, biomedical science, and public health communities to anticipate, prevent, recognize, mitigate, and respond to the destructive potential associated with advancing technologies.
This report is part of a larger body of work that the National Academies has undertaken in recent years on science and security and the contributions that science and technology could make to countering terrorism, beginning with Scientific Communication and National Security in 1982 and continuing with Chemical and Biological Terrorism: Research and Development to Improve Civilian Medical Responses (1999), Firepower in the Lab: Automation in the Fight Against Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism (2001), Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (2002), Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities (2002), and Countering Agricultural Terrorism (2002). Most recently and of particular relevance to this report is the National Research Council report Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism (2004). The principal difference between that report and the present report is that the former revolves around issues pertaining to the regulatory oversight of research employing biotechnology and the flow of scientific knowledge derived from the use of biotechnology, with a focus on the United States. In contrast, this report adopts a more global perspective, addressing the increasing pace of advances in the life sciences and related convergent technologies likely to alter the biological threat spectrum over the next five to ten years and broadly considering ways to prevent or mitigate the consequences of malevolent exploitation or naïve misapplication of these technologies.
While many readers might hope to find a well-defined, prioritized list or set of lists of future threats, the pace of research discovery in the life sciences is such that the useful lifespan of any such list would likely be measured in months, not years. Instead, the committee sought to define more broadly how continuing advances in life sciences technologies could contribute to the development of novel biological weapons and to develop a logical framework for analysts to consider as they evaluate the evolving technology threat spectrum. The committee concluded that there