Biodefense is 'gift to humanity'

The Homeland Security Department "is not constructed properly" to counter biological terrorism, said Dr. Tara O'Toole, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies.

Biodefense, she said, "matters more than just about anything else, because the number of potential weapons is growing exponentially."

O'Toole, a former Energy Department assistant secretary for environmental safety and health, spoke last month at a Washington Post Co. briefing. O'Toole and her colleagues at the center are more and more convinced that "bioterror is the asymmetric threat of the 21st century," she said.

Advances in biotechnology are coming even faster than in IT, O'Toole said, and there is no way to control them. Putting controls on biotech is "a loser's game" because there is no way to single out developments in bioweapons from the broader research and development environment.

"Control of bioweapons can't be imposed like nuclear weapons control," she said. "Fund this as a national security priority. It's a gift to humanity."

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