Scientific advances increase biothreat, experts testify

According to panelists who testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday, scientific advances have increased the threat of a bioterror act.
Tara O'Toole, the Homeland Security Department's under secretary for science and technology, said that as progress moves forward, weapons will become stronger and more accessible. Alexander Garza, the DHS assistant secretary for health affairs, agreed with the assessment, Fierce Homeland Security reports.
"The potency and accessibility of these weapons...will increase as the bioscience revolution proceeds," O'Toole said, according to Fierce Homeland Security. "In the 1990s, it took a decade and a billion dollars to decode the human genome. We could now do that for a thousands dollars in about a week. This progress is happening globally."
Garza said that the curve for biotechnology is "much steeper than Moore's law," which is the dictum that computing power roughly doubles every two years.
O'Toole recalled instances of alarm and confusion over suspicious powdered substances in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks. She said that since that time, more efficient and effective tools for testing substances have been deployed.
Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Health and Human Services Department, said that the various agencies that prepare for bioterror attacks are well coordinated.
"Because we work so closely together now day-to-day on all of these other issues, it's not like you've needed to corral people to sit them down at the table and make them talk to each other, because we do that all the time," Lurie said, according to Fierce Homeland Security.