Pandora Report: 12.2.2022

What a week it has been! This time we cover the first week of the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference, China’s Zero COVID protests, and more. We also have a number of new publications and a new video from INTERPOL about weaponizable chemicals. Make sure to read to the end too for a fun new way to engage with the Pandora Report!

The Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference Gets Underway

It was never any secret that this RevCon was going to be one for the history books, but this first week has delivered on that promise and then some. Of course, the Russian Federation brought plenty of drama to the Palais des Nations, withdrawing from the Eastern European Group and voicing complaints that its invasion of Ukraine, which was referenced in numerous national statements, is outside the scope of the conference and that only Western countries describe its numerous false claims as groundless. In response to the former, Czechia responded with “If Russia doesn’t like it, they should simply not invade their neighbors.” Other countries have taken to selectively switching to speaking in Russian while delivering statements about who the aggressor in this situation is, giving a sense of schadenfreude reality TV could never.

The US used the right of reply to respond to Russia early this week, with US Special Representative Kenneth Ward explaining “During the Article V Formal Consultative Meeting, the United States, jointly with Ukraine, fully addressed the unfounded concerns raised by the Russian Federation. However, it was clear from the outset of the Article V process that Russia never intended to engage constructively with Ukraine and the United States. It came to our attention on the very first day of the meeting that the Russian delegation had already made up its mind and circulated a draft of a proposed “joint statement” to select delegations regarding the outcome of this Article V Consultation. In this draft joint statement, the Russian Federation explicitly concluded that Ukraine and the United States had failed to answer questions regarding the activities of biological laboratories in Ukraine – a conclusion it reached before the United States and Ukraine even began our joint presentation.”

The US also pushed back on Russia’s withdrawal from the Eastern European Group (which, by the way, was done because an unnamed member of the group blocked Russia’s nominations), stating “There is a final issue which I would like to briefly address. As we are all aware, the BWC forum operates based on a three-group system. Yesterday, a State Party indicated that it was withdrawing from its current group and forming a new “Group of One.” This is a new situation, and the United States reserves its position with respect to the implications of any new group for geographical rotation, vice-chair positions, etc. Any departure from current arrangements based on the existing three-group system would require a consensus decision by all States Parties.”

It hasn’t all been drama, however, with several productive side events and remarks from relevant organizations focused on everything from disinformation to discussion of new approaches to protecting the world from biological weapons.

Biodefense Program Students and Alumni Speak at BWC

Naturally, a number of current students and alumni of our program are making their mark at RevCon. Biodefense PhD student Ryan Houser delivered remarks on behalf of the Global Biolabs Initiative, led by Biodefense Program Director Dr. Gregory Koblentz and Dr. Filippa Lentzos of King’s College London. The Schar School recently posted about Houser’s remarks here, explaining “Houser’s statement called on nations where high-risk pathogen work is conducted to have laws and regulations that provide adequate oversight and to update them frequently. He also called for cooperation among the labs to share best practices and participate in peer reviews.”

Biodefense PhD student Ryan Houser delivering remarks at RevCon in Geneva

Dr. Yong-Bee Lim, an alumnus of the program and the current Deputy Director of the Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons at the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), also delivered remarks this week. Dr. Lim spoke on behalf of CSR, acknowledging the importance of this particular RevCon. He said in part, “This Review Conference alone will not solve these issues. Yet what happens here will mark a historic point of departure where the community can choose to go down one of two paths. The first path leads towards a future where nations pursue mutual security through international cooperation and put in the hard work necessary to reduce biological threats together. The second path leads toward a future of even greater mistrust and further fracturing of international norms and practices. For the Council on Strategic Risks, it is our firm belief that the first path, where nations pursue mutual security through international collaboration, is the only pathway towards true security for all.”

Dr. Yong-Bee Lim delivering remarks at RevCon in Geneva

If you’re looking to keep up with RevCon, you can watch public sessions on UN WebTV and summaries of each day’s events on CBW Events’ website.

CWC Coalition Wins The Hague Aware at Chemical Weapons Convention 27th CSP

The 27th Conference of the States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention is wrapping up today in The Hague. The winners of the prestigious The Hague Award were announced in conjunction with the event, with this year’s winners including the Special Risks Brigade of the Federal Police of Argentina, the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition, and the Population Protection Institute of the Fire Rescue Service of the Czech Republic. The CWC Coalition, which Biodefense Program Director Dr. Gregory Koblentz is a member of, “is an independent, international civil society network committed to supporting the aims and universalization of the CWC and supplementing the work of the member states of the OPCW. The Coalition’s work is made possible by the support of the Global Affairs Canada Weapons Threat Reduction Program and the Arms Control Association.”

Dr. Koblentz was also recently quoted in Politico‘s coverage of concerns about Russia using CW in Ukraine. The piece explains “Experts and officials said tracking pharmaceutical-based agents and gathering intelligence about their development, particularly for offensive purposes, has become increasingly difficult. The substances used to develop chemical weapons are concealed easily and can be embedded within legitimate industries, said Gregory Koblentz, director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University.” He also told Politico, “Our traditional intelligence methods that we’re really good at, like satellite imagery and signals intelligence, aren’t really that useful for telling you what’s going on inside one of these core biological facilities,” Koblentz said. “You really need human intelligence to do that, which is very hard to get.”

Between a Rock and a Hard Place-Will China Pick COVID-19 Control or Political Control?

In an especially eventful couple weeks, Jiang Zemin, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China died aged 96, the infamous “CRISPR baby” scientist He Jiankui announced the establishment of his new laboratory in Beijing after his release from prison, and Rao Yi praised UK Biobank and called for more genetic information sharing in China–all as the government grappled with growing protests and backlash against its Zero COVID policies. Oh, and ProPublica doubled down on its widely criticized article on the Wuhan Institute of Virology it co-published with Vanity Fair.

Lockdown Protests Across China

As images of people across China holding up blank sheets of white paper flood the internet, speculation about protesters’ ultimate desires have swirled as attention has been draw to pushback on the PRC’s Zero COVID policies. China’s approach to COVID-19 control has been incredibly strict, frequently forcing people to remain at home for months with inadequate access to food and other necessities. These are not people protesting normal public health measures-they are pushing back against an authoritarian government that has upended their lives repeatedly while failing to adequately invest in long-term solutions like effective vaccines. Furthermore, Chinese nationalism can be complicated and it is important to consider it in a non-comparative context.

In a wide display of civil disobedience that has been largely absent from the country in recent years, protesters have taken to the streets to call for the end of such draconian policies. This has been fueled in part by access to western media and shots of crowds at events like the FIFA World Cup, and it is especially risky business in the PRC. This is because of the scope of surveillance in the country, with police stations using facial recognition software to identify people captured on the countless surveillance cameras across the country. While the protests do seem to have spurred some relaxation in Zero COVID policies, it has not been without consequences as the police are cracking down on protesters.

China’s New “People First” Approach to COVID-19, Policy Rollbacks in Major Population Centers

Beyond actual outbreak control and prevention, China’s Zero COVID policies have been intertwined with efforts to further narratives that the PRC is more orderly and successful than the West. For example, official publications have contrasted the “rule of China” with the “chaos in the West” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, using this narrative to counter perceived western political globalization. Xi Jinping has also repeatedly stressed that China’s post-COVID recovery will be “a time of opportunity when “the East is rising and the West is declining.”‘ Zero COVID policies are clearly high stakes political tools that the government has increasingly relied on in the face of poor vaccination rates and struggles with new variants.

However, this has all seemingly been thrown out the window this week as policymakers make major shifts to epidemic control and prevention measures across the country. On November 11, China’s National Health Commission announced its much anticipated 20 measures to further optimize COVID prevention and control, in which it was reiterated that Beijing was not backing down or relaxing its measures at all. However this proved to not be the case.

For example, just three days later, Shijiazhuang (a city of over 11 million and the capital of Hebei province) became the first city to cancel mass PCR testing. However, on November 20, the city restored mass PCR testing in six districts and restricted residents in high-risk areas from leaving their homes, advising others to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Yesterday, China Daily reported that Shijiazhuang will “…gradually resume normal production and life order starting Thursday as the chain of transmission during an ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has been basically cut, a top official of the city said at a news conference on Wednesday night.”

This new brand of optimism has been echoed elsewhere, including in a recent speech by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, in the relaxation of restrictions in other major cities like Guangzhou and Chongqing (despite rising infections), and in less prominent publications that recently claimed the Omicron subvariant is not very serious and that there is no evidence of Long COVID. These are bold claims that reflect changing policies as the government tries to adapt to the precarious situation unfolding currently. Zhejiang’s CCP Provincial Committee even published a post on WeChat this week titled ‘”People First,” not “Epidemic Control First”‘ claiming, among other things, that “Epidemic prevention and control is about keeping out viruses, not about keeping out people. It has always been about “people first,” not any so-called “epidemic prevention first.”’

Of course, this isn’t entirely a political issue. There are real people’s lives at stake, a fact that is likely to become even more clear as this rollback clashes with the fact that the PRC lags on COVID-19 vaccinations. The country’s vaccination rates have struggled, with just 40% of those over 80 having received a booster shot as of November 11. The government is currently touting its big push to get more people, especially the elderly, vaccinated and boosted, but is it too little too late? The country is still relying on its domestic vaccines, which have proven substantially less effective than foreign offerings, including mRNA versions. During Hong Kong’s Omicron surge earlier this year, two doses of China’s Sinovac proved to be only 58% effective in preventing severe disease or death in those over 80 (in contrast to 87% with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech offering). Furthermore, a The New York Times notes, “…China’s last major vaccination push was in the spring, an interval of eight months or more since the last dose for many recipients.”

The lackluster efficacy combined with low interest in the vaccine, in part because Beijing’s strategy opted to focus so heavily on lockdowns and widespread testing, are a dangerous combination. This also looks to be poised to cause more issues as, in a rush to vaccinate a hesitant elderly population, the recommended time between the initial series of Sinovac and the first booster dose is also being reduced from six months to three. Whatever happens next, it is likely to be very interesting…

ProPublica Doubles Down on Heavily Criticized Article

Last month, we discussed ProPublica’s article about supposed CCP dispatches from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), explaining the flawed translations and mischaracterization of the website in question. ProPublica has now released an editor’s note discussing criticisms aimed at the October 28 piece that, unfortunately, fails to adequately address the issues raised with the piece. ProPublica’s Stephen Engelberg explains in the note “Over the past several weeks, reporters and editors at both publications have taken a hard look at those criticisms. Our examination affirms that the story, and the totality of reporting it marshals, is sound.”

The note goes on to recount how the publication re-interviewed some of its original sources and reached out to “…three Chinese language experts with impeccable credentials who were not involved in the original story to review Reid’s translation,” who are also anonymous like those consulted in the original piece. ProPublica first focuses on a post made on the WIV website that the initial piece claimed was discussing a biosafety incident at the facility. As we and others discussed, however, this was a news post talking in very inspirational terms about the day-to-day functions of the lab and the safety culture the organization tries to maintain.

However, ProPublica claims this new batch of experts “…all agreed that his [Toy Reid-the translator ProPublica relied on in their piece] version was a plausible way to represent the passage, though two also said they would have translated the words to refer to the dangers of day-to-day lab operations. The third produced a translation that was in line with Reid’s. All agreed the passage was ambiguous. We have updated the story to underscore the complexity of interpreting that dispatch.” The note later states “It remains clear that in 2019, the WIV was addressing serious safety issues while scientists there faced pressure to perform. Risky coronavirus research took place in laboratories that lacked the maximum biocontainment safeguards, according to the interim report.”

Later on, the note returns to this passage and criticisms of its context, explaining that Reid thought it had a defensive tone, saying “Before we published our story, Reid told us he found the passage to have a defensive tone. In the story, we quote Reid as concluding, “They are almost saying they know Beijing is about to come down and scream at them.” The note also says of the original three translators’ work, “All three of their translations were different from one another’s and different from Reid’s. Yet, each agreed that Reid’s translation was one plausible way to translate the passage into English. Our translators looked at the Chinese characters that Reid had translated to read “Every time this has happened” and instead said they read them to mean “on such occasions” or “at every such an occasion.””

The note addresses other criticisms with varying levels of success, including those focused on mis-matched dates in the piece and confusion over patent filings. However, it ignores a number of other criticisms and fails to address key issues raised with these translations. First, pointing to multiple translators coming up with different versions of this passage than the one ProPublica predicated its narrative on is not sufficient to absolve the publication of poor practices. This is especially true as the note provides virtually no context about who these “Chinese language experts with impeccable credentials” are and how much context they were provided. The original translation notes ProPublica provided seemed to ignore entire halves of sentences in an attempt to confirm a certain narrative, which makes this lack of information in the editor’s note particularly concerning.

Second, this note still ignores critical questions about Reid’s methodology and the core of the piece’s argument. The piece claims to have unearthed “dispatches” from the WIV that hinted at biosafety issues, other security problems, and urgent, high-level visits to the facility in light of these supposed incidents. However, as we discussed last time, these were posts uploaded to the general news tab of the WIV website. The passages the ProPublica piece relies on include propagandistic, general descriptions of daily work in a BSL-4, claims that workers are so dedicated that they sacrifice their time off and well-being to make sure the facility is safe, and the constant push of everyone involved to make the WIV safer and better. However, again, even if these were actually dispatches secretively discussing serious problems at the lab, why would they be publicly available on the WIV website?

The crux of this piece is that WIV and the Chinese government covered up a lab leak that led to this horrible, destructive pandemic. Why, then, would they publicly post and maintain these posts about biosafety issues at this facility? The Party and its organs are secretive and interested in controlling narratives to better their image-especially when it comes to high-profile facilities like the nation’s first P4 facility. If ProPublica wants to portray these posts as damning evidence that the WIV had remarkable biosafety issues that allowed SARS-CoV-2 to escape and spread in Wuhan, then the question of why that kind of information would be allowed to remain on the site of such a high-profile facility must be answered.

Finally, this note did not address concerns about exoticism, Sinophobia, and the general overpromise that this unknown State Department political officer who went to Harvard and worked at RAND somehow has this unique, esoteric understanding of Mandarin. There is a line between understanding how the CCP legitimizes itself through narratives and inappropriately presenting China and Chinese people as an especially unique case beyond understanding. Furthermore, the piece largely seems to have overstated the skills and methods of Reid, relying on building him up to be somehow uniquely well-suited for this work and hyping up, of all things, his use of a VPN to access the WIV website. In addition to the spread of false information, these issues point to a concerning trend in public discourse about China that harms the real people who fall victim to the dangerous rhetoric this feeds into. As we talked about last time, shoddy work like this helps nobody. It ultimately empowers those with prejudiced views, muddies public discourse, and mischaracterizes the very real threats to security posed by the PRC.

Other Updates

World AIDS Day

December 1 was World AIDS Day, an annual commemoration aimed at uniting to show support for those living with HIV and to honor those who died from AIDS and related illnesses. Tens of millions of people have died of AIDS-related causes since the epidemic began and HIV still presents a major global health threat today.

Felix Richter explained this week for Statista that “According to estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 10 countries accounted for almost half of all new HIV infections in 2021. South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda alone nearly accounted for nearly one third of the estimated 1.5 million new infections last year, indicating that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the epicenter of the HIV pandemic.”

He continued, “While the number of new infections has dropped from 2.9 million in 2000 to 1.5 million last year, the number of people living with HIV increased from 26 million to more than 38 million over the past two decades. According to UNAIDS, the increase is not only caused by new infections, but also a testament to the progress that has been made in treating HIV with antiretroviral therapy, which has vastly improved the outlook of those infected with HIV.”

Credit: Statista

Mpox

The WHO recently announced that it will begin using “mpox” as its preferred term and a synonym for monkeypox. This decision was made in consultation with global experts because “When the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatizing language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO. In several meetings, public and private, a number of individuals and countries raised concerns and asked WHO to propose a way forward to change the name.”

WHO will use mpox alongside monkeypox for a year before phasing out use of the latter term. According to WHO, “Considerations for the recommendations included rationale, scientific appropriateness, extent of current usage, pronounceability, usability in different languages, absence of geographical or zoological references, and the ease of retrieval of historical scientific information.”

WHO also stated “The issue of the use of the new name in different languages was extensively discussed.  The preferred term mpox can be used in other languages. If additional naming issues arise, these will be addressed via the same mechanism. Translations are usually discussed in formal collaboration with relevant government authorities and the related scientific societies.”

This reflects a push in recent years to change how diseases are named in recognition of the stigma and harm brought by naming diseases after places, people, and animals. WHO released its “Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases” in 2015 to help provide guidelines for using more general terms to describe new infectious diseases. This issue was again brought to the forefront amid spikes in attacks targeting Asian people since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan as racist rhetoric surrounding cultural practices and the disease’s origin flooded public discourse. The FBI documented a 77% increase in hate crimes against Asian people living in the United States from 2019 to 2020, though it is likely these kinds of crimes are chronically under-reported.

“Health+ Long COVID Report”

This Department of Health and Human Services’ report “highlights patients’ experience of Long COVID to better understand its complexities and drive creative responses by government leaders, clinicians, patient advocates and others.” It builds “on the President’s Memorandum on Addressing the Long-Term Effects of COVID-⁠19 and the two previously issued HHS Long COVID reports. The report was commissioned by HHS and produced by Coforma, an independent third-party design and research agency. It provides recommendations on how to deliver high-quality care, and relevant and intentional resources and supports to individuals and families impacted by Long COVID.” Read the report here.

“WHO Guiding Principles for Pathogenic Genome Data Sharing”

This new set of guidelines from WHO outlines best practices for sharing genomic data: “WHO encourages the sharing of pathogen genome data to protect global public health. Sharing of pathogen genome data is critical for preventing, detecting, and responding to epidemics and pandemics at national and international levels, and is in the interest of all Member States. The regular collection and sharing of such data are also important for monitoring and responding to endemic diseases and for tracking antimicrobial resistance to inform policy decisions. Practices and policies for sharing pathogen genome data must be ethical, equitable, efficient, and effective. After wide consultation, WHO has developed these foundational principles, which focus on public health uses, as well as urgent immediate research priorities.”

Toxin and Bioregulator Weapons: Preventing the Misuse of the Chemical and Life Sciences

This new book “…explores how revolutionary developments and convergence of the chemical, life and associated sciences are impacting contemporary toxin and bioregulator research, and examines the risks of such research being misused for malign purposes. Investigating illustrative cases of dual use research of potential concern in China, India, Iran, Russia, Syria and the USA, the authors discuss how states can ensure such research and related activities are not utilised in weapons development. Although toxins and bioregulators are, in theory, covered by both the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention, this apparent overlap in reality masks a dangerous regulatory gap – with neither Convention implemented effectively to address threats of weaponisation. This book highlights the potentially damaging consequences for international peace and security, and proposes realistic routes for action by states and the scientific community.”

“Verification and Transparency: Learning from Project Coast”

In The Trench‘s fifth issue of the Historical Notes story, Professor Brian Rappert, Ms. Lizeka Tandwa, and Dr. Chandré Gould discuss the history of South Africa’s chemical and biological weapons program. The explain that “This Historical Note discusses how transparency and truth-telling have figured in securing confidence nationally and internationally. Our assessment is that fact-sharing, truth-telling and transparency about the apartheid-era chemical and biological warfare programme were not the key ingredients leading to confidence regarding South Africa’s commitment to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC). To illuminate this position, we evaluate the roles of truth in (1) the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa, and (2) South Africa’s transparency (or lack thereof) in the BTWC. The authors begin by briefly describing the activities of South Africa’s CBW programme and the questions that linger about it. This serves as an entry to unpacking the roles of truth and confidence, both welcomed and unwelcomed roles.”

“Countering Hybrid Threats in Bulgaria”

JD Maddox, an adjunct professor at the Schar School who teaches courses on countering disinformation, recently delivered the keynote address at an event introducing this policy brief from the Center for the Study of Democracy. The brief explains, “Russia has long prepared its war in Ukraine by deploying the full array of hybrid warfare tools at its disposal in Europe: election meddling and strategic corruption aimed at political parties and media, cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure and disinformation, economic coercion, and targeted assassinations using difficult-to-detect toxic agents, to name a few. Europe has been slow to react, with EU member states failing to anticipate the war in Ukraine even after the Kremlin started preparations for its final act by deliberately reducing gas storage levels in Germany in the autumn of 2021. Some EU and NATO member states and many political party leaders across the continent remain in denial, even as the war approaches a full year of destruction. NATO and European institutions have begun to prepare policy and operational responses to these emerging hybrid threats, but implementation remains slow and uneven.” Maddox also recently released an infographic-“Russia’s Active Measures: Recent CBRN-enabled Influence Operations” that outlines Russia’s efforts across several areas, including cyber.

“An Update on Eukaryotic Viruses Revived from Ancient Permafrost”

Two words; “zombie viruses”-that is how researchers have described thirteen viruses collected from permafrost in Siberia in a recent preprint. “One quarter of the Northern hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost. Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect. Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that remained dormant since prehistorical times. While the literature abounds on descriptions of the rich and diverse prokaryotic microbiomes found in permafrost, no additional report about “live” viruses have been published since the two original studies describing pithovirus (in 2014) and mollivirus (in 2015). This wrongly suggests that such occurrences are rare and that “zombie viruses” are not a public health threat. To restore an appreciation closer to reality, we report the preliminary characterizations of 13 new viruses isolated from 7 different ancient Siberian permafrost samples, 1 from the Lena river and 1 from Kamchatka cryosol. As expected from the host specificity imposed by our protocol, these viruses belong to 5 different clades infecting Acanthamoeba spp. but not previously revived from permafrost: pandoravirus, cedratvirus, megavirus, and pacmanvirus, in addition to a new pithovirus strain.”

What We’re Watching 🍿

We’re changing it up this week with INTERPOL’s new a̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ m̶o̶v̶i̶e̶ awareness video about the risks of weaponizable chemicals-“The Watchmaker”. “The Watchmaker, is an INTERPOL-produced awareness video highlighting the need for multi-agency cooperation to share knowledge and identify solutions to mitigate risks posed by weaponizable chemicals. It is part of a broader set of activities entitled, Project Crimp, which provides a platform for multi-agency cooperation between law enforcement, government, academia and the chemical industry to share knowledge, experience and share best practice.”

Maximum Containment Labs and Biorisk Management

From the Global Biolabs Initiative: “This webinar will re-launch GlobalBioLabs.org, an interactive web-based map of global maximum containment labs and biorisk management policies, and introduce new data and analysis. Speakers: Dr Filippa Lentzos, King’s College London and Dr Gregory D Koblenz, George Mason University.” This webinar will take place on December 9 at 8 am ET. Register here.

Applying Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Research and Development to Future Epidemics

Join the National Academies for this workshop taking place in a hybrid format December 7-8. “The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed innovative practices across many sectors to accelerate the development and use of new tools and technologies in response to an emerging infectious disease outbreak. This public workshop will examine lessons learned in creating an environment that strengthens this progress in partnerships, communication channels, and coordination processes to support the rapid development and implementation of new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tests for future outbreak preparedness. A specific focus will be placed on broadening stakeholder partnerships early and throughout the outbreak preparedness and response process.” Learn more and register here.

Canadian Biosafety Standard, Third Edition Webinar

“The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are pleased to announce the publication of the Canadian Biosafety Standard, third edition (CBS3). The CBS3 outlines the physical containment, operational practice, and performance and verification testing requirements for facilities where regulated materials are handled or stored. The CBS has been revised to clarify the biosafety and biosecurity intent of all requirements, be risk-, evidence- and performance-based, and be non-prescriptive and technology-neutral. The CBS3 comes into full effect on April 1, 2023. The Public Health Agency of Canada will be hosting a two-part webinar series dedicated to the CBS3. The first webinar will be held on December 7th, 2022, and will provide an overview of key changes in the CBS3 from the previous edition, project milestones, and highlights from the public consultation.” The webinar will be held at 1 pm ET. Register here. Registration is limited for this event, so move quickly if you are interested in attending.

ICYMI- Impacts of Infectious Diseases on the Military: Lessons Learned

From the Homeland Defense and Security Information Analysis Center: “This moderated panel discussion will engage three subject matter experts who have served at the forefront of public health operations in both the military and civilian sectors. Panelists will discuss lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and other health crises, recommended responses for future infectious disease threats, and near- and long-term mitigation steps which the military can employ to combat infectious disease threats. Threats analyzed will include natural and manmade releases of biological threats.” Watch the webinar here.

BIO-ISAC Call for Nominations for Genomic Security and Hardware/Software Security Working Groups

“To support the execution of the Bioeconomy Executive Order, BIO-ISAC has issued a Call for Nominations for its 2023 working groups focused on Genomic Security and Hardware/Software Security.”

“Each workgroup is expected to meet for at least two hours a month for the initial four months and agree to future meetings as required. Consensus building around organization recommendations and regulatory responses expected with likely on-the-record presentation of findings from the working groups. No working group may have more than two representatives from a single firm or entity.  BIO-ISAC membership is required to serve as chair.

The Pandora Report Wants to Hear from Biodefense Program Alumni!

Calling all graduates of the Biodefense Program-do you have any news to share from this year? We want to hear from you! The Pandora Report will be creating a year-in-review for our late December issue, and we want to include updates from current students and alumni alike. It can be anything from promotions, publications, new jobs, etc. that you would like to share. Share your updates with us at biodefense@gmu.edu before December 23 to be featured in the year-in-review and anytime you want to stay in touch.

Introducing the Weekly Pandora Report Trivia Question

You read the Pandora Report every week and now it’s time for you to show off what you know! At the end of each weekly issue, there will now be a trivia question included. The first person to send the correct answer to biodefense@gmu.edu will get a shout out in the following issue (first name last initial). Because this is the first round, we will start off easy-Which country most recently became a State Party to the Biological Weapons Convention?

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