Globalization, Bioseucurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences
The Impact of the Rapid Advances of the Biological Sciences and Genetic Engineering on Biosecurity - a Historical and Scientific Perspective
Historical development and use of biological weapons, trends in their evolution and the prospects for containing their proliferation. The opportunities and security challenges of the rapid advancement of biological sciences. Dimensions of the threat. Evaluation of the validity of the claim: “bioweapons are a poor man’s atomic bomb”. In contrast to nuclear weapons, BW do not require rare materials, such as enriched uranium or plutonium. They do not require rare finances: the development and production of BW is relatively inexpensive. They do not require rare knowledge: most of the techniques involved are straightforward, well-documented, and in the public domain. They do not require rare infrastructure. The same tools that hold the key to revolutionary medical advances such as gene therapy to cure cancer make possible the creation of a new class of weapons of mass destruction with unprecedented power to destroy.
While consulting for the United States government through JASON, Block has researched the many threats associated with bioterrorism and headed influential studies on how advances in genetic engineering have impacted biological warfare. Dr. Block will also discuss some aspects of his work as part of the Committee on Advances in Technology and the Prevention of Their Application to Next Generation Biowarfare Threats through Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies.
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Steven M. Block, PhD; Professor at Stanford University with a joint appointment in the departments of Biological Sciences and Applied Physics; consultant on BioSecurity to the US Government; member of scientific advisory group Jason; senior fellow of Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
Steven M. Block, PhD is a professor at Stanford University with a joint appointment in the departments of Biological Sciences and Applied Physics. In addition, he is a member of the scientific advisory group JASON, a senior fellow of Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Block received his B.A. and M.A. from Oxford University. He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2007) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000), and is a winner of the Max Delbruck Prize of the American Physical Society (2008), as well as the Single Molecule Biophysics Prize of the Biophysical Society (2007). He served as President of the Biophysical Society during 2005-6. His graduate work was completed in the laboratory of Howard Berg at the University of Colorado and Caltech. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 and went on to do postdoctoral research at Stanford. Since that time, Block has held positions at the Rowland Institute for Science, Harvard University, and Princeton University before returning to Stanford in 1999.
As a graduate student, Block picked apart the adaptation kinetics involved in bacterial chemotaxis. As an independent scientist, Block has pioneered the use of optical tweezers, a technique developed by Arthur Ashkin, to study biological enzymes and polymers at the single-molecule level. Work in his lab has led to the direct observation of the 8 nm steps taken by kinesin and the sub-nanometer stepping motions of RNA polymerase on a DNA template. Other biological systems currently under study in his laboratory include RNA polymerase, exonuclease, and helicase, enzymes that move processively along DNA. Professor Block is a strong proponent of nanoscience, but he is also an outspoken critic of the “futurist” element of the nanotechnology movement. While consulting for the United States government through JASON, Block has researched the many threats associated with bioterrorism and headed influential studies on how advances in genetic engineering have impacted biological warfare.