ASM Biothreats 2020

We’re the source for all things health security and the annual ASM Biothreats conference is no different. GMU’s biodefense program was fortunate to send several students to attend the 2020 ASM Biothreats conference in which topics ranged from diagnostics to technology as a source for biothreats. Held in Arlington, Virginia on January 28-30, this was an exciting event highlighting the importance of conversations surrounding high consequence pathogen research, biological threat reduction, and product development and policy. Our student attendees have reported back on some of the enlightening and captivating sessions during the biothreat event. Below you’ll find several commentaries from each student who attended:

Joseph DeFranco is a Scholar Fellow of the Defense Operational Cognitive Sciences section of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Branch, Joint Staff, Pentagon. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in biodefense at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University, and working toward a Ph.D. in War Studies at Kings College, London, with emphasis upon biosecurity and neuroscience. His current research focuses on possible uses of novel microbiological agents, neurotechnologies, and ancillary science and technology as force-multiplying elements in non-kinetic, hybrid, and kinetic engagements; and the role of international agencies and policies in global biosecurity. At ASM, Joseph attended the Innovations in Biothreat Detection Over the past several decades, the United States and the international community have dramatically improved their abilities to identify, respond, mitigate, and manage public health emergencies. Yet, there are demands to strengthen the prevention, protection, and treatment of individuals that may be exposed to dangerous pathogens, such as high-confidence & autonomous biological sensors. These technologies must be able to scan an area or environment, identify specific agents, and quickly inform stakeholders of an event. These sessions examined the recent advancements in rapid, confident, and fieldable biological threat agent – or biothreat – detection. ” Joseph also attended Dr. Fauci’s talk Coronavirus Infections: More Than Just A Common Cold– “Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), spoke at the ASM Biothreats meeting about the advent of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Although scientists first characterized the human coronaviruses (CoV) in the 1960s, CoVs rarely received international attention. Then, in 2002, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a new disease, caused worldwide panic and consternation as the virus spread quickly from China to the rest of the world.”

Maddie Roty is a first-year graduate student in the Biodefense Master’s program at the Schar School of Policy and Government. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Michigan in 2019 and is a registered nurse in the state of Virginia. Her interests include the impact of violence on health, the role of culture on social structures and decision-making, public education, and health preparedness. At ASM, Maddie attended International Collaboration Without Complications and Confusion, noting that it “emphasized the complexity of promoting and protecting biological research and innovation in today’s society. The four speakers featured on the panel discussed what exists now and what still needs to be done to strike a balance between promoting and protecting biotechnology, with attention given specifically to export controls, synthetic biology, the select agent program, and biosecurity.” Maddie also attended The Doctors Without Borders Experience: Patients as People and not Biohazards, finding that “For its relevance, Benoit did make a point to address MSF’s response to the emerging coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately, most of the need is in China, and China has traditionally been resistant to accepting assistance from independent actors. MSF is standing by and continuing to assess for situations in which it could help provide care or supplies.”

Michael Krug is a second-year graduate student in the Biodefense Master’s program at the Schar School of Policy and Government. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech and worked for several years in the biotechnology industry, accruing experience in the fields of molecular biology, drug development, and emerging technologies. His research interests incorporate national security and emerging dual-use technologies, specifically, synthetic biology and genome-editing. He expects to graduate in the spring semester of 2020 and plans to pursue a career in biosafety and biosecurity. Attending From Surveillance to Bedside: Tools for the Next Outbreak, he found that “As new emerging diseases continue challenging global health response, it is imperative that these technologies continue to be developed, tested, and licensed for global use. This session, moderated by Dr. Vineet Menachery of the University of Texas Medical Branch and Dr. Kari Debbink of Bowie State University, touched on cutting edge research for the response to the next emerging infectious disease.” Michael also attended Smallpox: Development and Use of the Panoply of Countermeasures in the Armamentariumnoting that “Variola virus research can often be stigmatized since the disease was eradicated in 1980; however, the risk of potential bioterrorism, even after eradication, supports continued research, especially for the session participants mentioned above. Additionally, as viruses become cheaper and easier to synthesize from scratch, this research could be used at the frontlines against a nefarious release of synthesized variola virus.”

Biodefense Events


July 2019 – Summer Workshop on Bioterrorism, Pandemics, and Global Health Security.

Dates: TBD


Schar School of Policy and Government – Preventing Pandemics and Bioterrorism: Past, Present, and Future

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, 6-7pm EST

Schar School of Policy and Government, Founders Hall, Auditorium, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA, 22201

Join the Schar School Biodefense Program, Schar Alumni Chapter, and Dean Mark Rozell for an evening of connecting with alumni, academics, practitioners, and students!  Preventing Pandemics and Bioterrorism: Past, Present, and Future featuring Robert Kadlec, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Health & Human Services, Office of the Secretary. We are excited to announce this special event in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the George Mason University Biodefense Program at the Schar School of Policy and Government. We invite you to attend this exciting opportunity to hear from Dr. Kadlec about lessons learned for pandemic preparedness since the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, plans for implementing the new National Biodefense Strategy, and the importance of education for the future of biodefense. Continue reading “Biodefense Events”

Week in DC: Events 1.30-23.2017

Monday, January 30th, 2017
America’s Place In The World – A Conversation With Former Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright- Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 5:30-6:30pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Please join the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a conversation with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the importance of American leadership and engagement in world affairs, the refugee crisis, and the situation in the Middle East.  Dr. Albright was the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat.  She served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.  Currently, Dr. Albright is chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and Chair of Albright Capital Management.  She is also a professor in the practice of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and is a member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense.  Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2012. The Smart Women, Smart Power (SWSP) initiative is designed to amplify the voices of women in foreign policy, national security, and international business.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
Oversharing? How Much Should Government Be Telling Us About Cybersecurity Risks?– New America Foundation
Time: 9-10:30am
Location: New America
740 15th St NW #900, Washington, DC(map)
What intervention can and should the federal government make available to others to help empower defense against cyber intrusions? The Russian intrusions associated with the 2016 presidential elections have reinvigorated the debate on this issue—including among cybersecurity experts. In light of the government’s response to the intrusions, New America’s own Robert M. Lee and Dave Weinstein have both come out publicly with well-argued but contrasting visions of the wisdom and utility of that response. At this event, Dave and Rob will join with other experts from the cybersecurity community to consider what the incoming administration can and should be releasing to help make America more cyber-secure.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
Enemies Or Partners? Russia And Turkey In Syria– Bipartisan Policy Center
Time: 10-11:15am
Location: Bipartisan Policy Center
1225 I Street, NW Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005 (map)
The roller coaster ride of Russian-Turkish relations, marked by violent incidents and rapid reversals, has absorbed the attention of anyone trying to make sense of Syria and the Middle East. In just over a year, Turkey has gone from shooting down a Russian jet to receiving Russian air support in its fight against ISIS in northern Syria. Now, with the new administration of President Trump, looking at this evolving relationship has become all the more important for understanding the prospects for U.S. foreign policy more broadly.
In the coming years Russian-Turkish relations will not only play a key role in shaping the future of Syria and the Islamic State, but also the fate of the Iran deal, NATO, and the Eurasian political order.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
The Spawn Of Frankenstein– New America Foundation
Time: 3-5:45pm
Location: New America
740 15th St NW #900, Washington, DC(map)
No work of literature has done more to shape the way people think about science and its moral consequences than Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein. Today, almost two centuries after the novel’s publication, advances in artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, robotics, and many other fields demonstrate the enduring salience of Frankenstein’s themes. Why are we still talking about Frankenstein? And what do we still have to learn from Victor Frankenstein and his creature, at a time when our scientific and technological capabilities make the novel’s premise of creating life in the lab more plausible than ever?  Join us on Thursday, February 2, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the legacy of Shelley’s Frankenstein and how the novel continues to influence the way that we confront emerging technologies, understand the complex relationships between creators and their creations, and weigh the benefits of innovation with its unforeseen pitfalls.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017
The State Of Security In Mexico: Why Are Homicides Increasing? How To Reduce The Violence?– Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Time: 8:45am-1pm
Location: The Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC (map)
Homicides appear to have increased significantly in parts of Mexico during 2016. By one calculation, organized crime related homicides increased roughly 49 percent between 2015 and 2016. October was the most violent month in nearly four years, and after two years of decline, 2016 roughly matched the homicide rate for 2013. Moreover, major cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez that had experienced a decrease in homocides since 2012 saw a significant uptick. What is driving this troubling tren and what kinds of innovative programs are being implemented to reduce violence or prevent it altogether? Please join our panel of experts for a discussion about these and other questions.

Week in DC: Events 12.12-12.16.2016

Monday, December 12th, 2016
Getting Ahead Of The Curve: The Evolving Threat Of Violent Extremism– United States Institute of Peace
Time: 9am-noon
Location: US Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. (map)
Movements, leaders, targets, tactics and arenas of operation have all proliferated in ways unimagined in 2001. The growing challenges have spurred new interest in broader strategies – to defuse current crises, stem proliferation of extremist ideologies and avoid future shocks. The obstacles in crafting a viable and sustainable policy are many: Limited resources, poor coordination, competing political interests and complex strategic factors. This forum will highlight the analysis of three separate reports:

  • “The Jihadi Threat: ISIS, Al Qaeda and Beyond,” led by USIP and the Wilson Center.
  • ‘Turning Point,” from the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Countering Violent Extremism.
  • “Communities First: A Blueprint for Organizing and Sustaining a Global Movement Against Violent Extremism,” from The Prevention Project.

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
The 2016 Cato Surveillance Conference– Cato Institute
Time: 9am-5:30pm
Location: Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 (map)
Eight years ago, Barack Obama arrived in Washington pledging to reverse the dramatic expansion of state surveillance his predecessor had presided over in the name of fighting terrorism. Instead, the Obama administration saw the Bush era’s “collect it all” approach to surveillance become still more firmly entrenched. Meanwhile, the advanced spying technologies once limited to intelligence agencies have been gradually trickling down to local police departments. From the high-profile tussle between Apple and the FBI over smartphone encryption to debates over how to detect “lone wolf” terrorists before they strike, hard questions about modern privacy have figured prominently in the 2016 presidential race. Moreover, as WikiLeaks’ sensational release of hacked Democratic Party e-mails demonstrated, surveillance isn’t just a campaign issue: It’s a campaign tactic too. As the nation braces itself for a new presidential administration, the Cato Institute will gather technologists, legislators, activists, and intelligence officials to survey the privacy landscape, look ahead to the issues Americans will be debating over the next eight years — from government hacking to predictive “big data” to the “Internet of things” — and examine how and whether Americans can still live at least occasionally free from prying eyes. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 12.12-12.16.2016”

Week in DC: Events 12.5-9.2016

Monday, December 5th, 2016
Cyber-securing The Nation: A Whole Of Nation Approach- New America Foundation
Time: 9:30am-noon
Location: New America 740 15th St NW #900 Washington, D.C. 20005, Washington, D.C. (map)
On December 1, President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity will deliver a report to the president with recommendations on bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity. While many of the likely recommendations will require federal government action, intentionally or not, the report will also underline the fact that enhancing national cybersecurity requires as much, if not more, action at the state and local levels. While the President considers the report, we’ll explore what more our states and cities can and should do to achieve these goals. Follow the conversation online with @NewAmCyber and #WONCyber.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
The Search For Cuba’s Food Security- Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Time: noon-2:30pm
Location: Johns Hopkins SAIS – Rome Building
1619 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. (map)
Room: Rome Auditorium
Pedro Sanchez is Research Professor of Tropical Soils at the University of Florida Soil & Water Sciences Department and core faculty of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. At UF, he leads the development of a collaborative programs on food and agriculture in Cuba and incorporate faculty and students in the long-standing food security programs he continues to be involved in tropical Africa. Sanchez was formally Director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center and Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He served as Director General of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), co-chair of the United Nations Millennium Project Hunger Task Force, and director of the Millennium Villages Project. Sanchez has supervised research programs in over 25 countries of Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Sanchez has written groundbreaking books on tropical soil science and hunger, and has received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), Guelph University (Canada), Ohio State University and North Carolina State University. He is the 2002 World Food Prize laureate, a 2004 MacArthur Fellow, and was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2012. Lunch will be provided. RSVP is required. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 12.5-9.2016”

Week in DC: Events 11.14-18.2016

Monday, November 14th, 2016
Global Security: Russia, China, Europe And Latin America– Center for Economic and Policy Research
Time: 9-10am
Location: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill400 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA(map)
Following one of the most unusual presidential and congressional elections in US history, a panel of senior specialists will present ideas for improving prospects for peace, and growth with fairness for all Americans. The topic of the panel, part of the Economists for Peace and Security Symposium: Policy Challenges for the New US President, is “Global Security: Russia, China, Europe and Latin America.”

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 Spillover: Zika, Ebola, And Beyond Film Screening And Discussion- National Museum of Natural History
Time: 6:30-8:30pm
Location: National Museum of Natural History10th Street & Constitution Ave, NW Washington D.C(map)
Room: Baird Auditorium (Ground Floor)
Over the last half century, a number of diseases have spilled over from animals to humans with increasing frequency. What’s behind the rise in spillover diseases? What can we do to stop them? PBS documentary Spillover, produced by Tangled Bank Studios, is a harrowing documentary that follows scientists into the world’s hot zones in a search for answers. And it does so while providing much needed scientific context for the most recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks. The film extends to the new frontiers of disease detection, prevention, and containment, and travels the world with virus hunters who are tracking old enemies while vigilantly looking out for new foes. A discussion after the screening will focus on Zika and how scientists have tracked the disease globally and locally, how the disease affects people, and what we need to know to help manage and prevent an outbreak in DC and beyond. Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 11.14-18.2016”

Week in DC: Events 11.7-11.11.2016

Monday, November 7th, 2016
Enhancing U.S.-Georgia Security Cooperation: The Way Forward– Heritage Foundation
Time: 10:30-11:30am
Location: Heritage Foundation214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 (map)
Located in the South Caucasus, Georgia sits at a crucial geographical and cultural crossroads and has proven to be strategically important for military and economic reasons for centuries. Today, Georgia’s strategic location is also important to the United States. In 2008 Georgia was promised eventual membership at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Since then few countries in the Euro-Atlantic region express as much enthusiasm for NATO as Georgia – even though it is not yet inside NATO. After the Russian invasion in 2008 and the subsequent Russian occupation of 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Georgia has transformed its military and has contributed thousands of troops to overseas military operations – all in the hopes of speeding up its application to join NATO. What is Georgia’s prospect of joining the Alliance? How will the new Georgian government and the next U.S. president handle the issue of NATO membership? Join us as we address these issues and more.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
U.S. Election – Go Vote! 
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
Biodefense Master’s Open Houses
We invite you to attend an open house to learn more about the Schar School of Policy and Government. The session will provide an overview of our master’s degree programs, an introduction to our world-class faculty and research, and highlights of the many ways we position our students for success in the classroom and beyond. Our admissions and student services staff will be on hand to answer your questions.

  • Thursday, November 10: 6:30pm-8:30pm—Master’s Open House, Founders Hall, Room 126

Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 11.7-11.11.2016”

Week in DC: Events 10.31-11.4.2016

Monday, October 31st, 2016
Nuclear Arms Control Choices For The Next Administration– Brookings Institution
Time: 2-3:30pm
Location: Brookings Institution1775 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, DC (map)
Nuclear arms control has been a feature on the U.S.-Soviet/Russian agenda for nearly five decades. While discussions between Washington and Moscow currently are at a standstill, the limitations, transparency, and predictability provided by agreements such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are more important than ever in times of tense bilateral relations. The next U.S. president and her or his administration will face a number of choices about nuclear weapons, nuclear policy, and arms control. On October 31, the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative will host a discussion on nuclear arms control choices for the next administration. Following the discussion, the speakers will take questions from the audience.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
2nd International Who’s Who in One Health Webinar – Don’t miss the One Health Commissions’ upcoming webinar on November 4th, 2016. This webinar is a great place to take part in dialogue with One Health leaders, advocates, professionals, and students The webinar is set to start at 7:45am EST and seeks to create new strategic partnerships and networks for collective, purposeful and coordinated action and educate participants about the One Health paradigm and ways of thinking towards improved health outcomes Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 10.31-11.4.2016”

Week in DC: Events 10.24-10.28.2016

Monday, October 24th, 2016
The U.S. Military And Commercial Space Industry– Center for Strategic and International Studies
Time: 2-3:30pm
Location: Center for Strategic and International Studies1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036 (map)
Please join us for the inaugural event of the CSIS Aerospace Security Project. This panel discussion will explore how the U.S. military can better leverage commercial space capabilities and what policy measures can be taken to support a thriving U.S. commercial space industry.
The event will also include a brief introduction of the Aerospace Security Project. The purpose of this project is to examine the technological, budgetary, and policy issues affecting the air and space domains. The project’s focus will be in three areas: space security, air dominance and long range strike, and commercial and civil space.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
War And Tweets: Terrorism In America In The Digital Age– New America Foundation
Time: 3-5pm
Location: New America740 15th St NW #900 Washington, D.C. 20005 (map)

“Here in Orlando, we are reminded not only of our obligations as a country to be resolute against terrorists,” President Obama said in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, “we’re also reminded…that what unites us is far stronger than the hate and the terror of those who target us.”
In the past year, terrorists have struck not only in Orlando, but in cities all over the world, from Beirut to Brussels, seeking to generate fear and anger. But what really determines public reaction? Is it, indeed, possible to be resolute in the face of terrorism?
Join us on October 25th at New America as we examine these questions and launch a new report as part of the “Building Civic Resilience to Terrorism” project, a partnership between New America and the charitable organization Democracy Fund Voice.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will join the Hon. Sharon Burke, Director of the Resource Security program at New America, Juliette Kayyem, CNN National Security Analyst, and Dr. Peter Singer, Senior Fellow of the International Security Program at New America to discuss how political rhetoric, news media, and social media shape the public reaction to terrorism. The panel will also look at how to use strategic communications to build community resilience in the aftermath of an attack.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016  Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 10.24-10.28.2016”

Week in DC: Events 10.10-10.14.2016

Monday, October 10th, 2016
Columbus Day 

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016
Conflict Prevention And Resolution Forum: Fragile States And Conflict Prevention Challenges– Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Time: 9:30-11am
Location: Johns Hopkins SAIS – Rome Building1619 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. (map) Room: Rome Auditorium
Approximately 1 billion individuals live in “fragile and conflict-affected countries” across the world. A fragile state is considered one in which a lack of governmental capacity leaves citizens vulnerable to a range of shocks, amongst which violence prevails. With a lack of funding for conflict prevention in fragile states, these countries are left without recourse. It is important to examine the lifesaving role conflict prevention can provide these countries as they move towards sustaining long term peace and social cohesion. Join us on October 11th for an in depth discussion with two leading experts: Nancy Lindborg, President, United States Institute of Peace. Ozong Agborsangaya-Fiteu, Senior Operations Officer, World Bank FCV. The discussion will be moderated by:Daniel Serwer, Director of the Conflict Management Program, SAIS.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
GMU Biodefense PhD Open House – October 12th! Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.00.29 AM
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for an upcoming PhD information session at our Fairfax Campus (Johnson Center, Room 334) on Wednesday, October 12th, from 7-8:30pm. We’ll be  discussing the nuts and bolts of the program, classes offered, and student perspectives on their PhD in biodefense! Continue reading “Week in DC: Events 10.10-10.14.2016”