The ASM Archives has for some years been collecting materials relating to the scientific and policy aspects of biological warfare. The Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Archives (CHOMA) Committee is investigating the possibility of expanding this collection in the coming years. For information, contact the Archivist, Jeff Karr, at firstname.lastname@example.org
OPCW: The First Five Years. Symposium on the Establishment of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Under the Future Chemical Weapons Convention. Symposium Report, 1992
Van Courtland Moon, J. E. “In the shadow of Ypres: The chemical warfare dilemma: 1915-1988” Harrod Lecture Series 10, 1989
13 April, 1942: The ASM's "War Committee on Bacteriology" is appointed by President Selman Waksman.
See Newsletter of the SAB (NLSAB) 8:2, p. 2: "The duties of the Committee will be threefold: 1) It will act as a clearinghouse for research in the fields of Medical, Industrial and Agricultural Bacteriology, as well as in General Microbiology, pertaining to problems of particular importance in prosecution of the war. 2) It will help to coordinate the activities of various Societies, Committees, Government and Municipal organizations, interested in the many aspects of Bacteriology. 3) It will be prepared to advise government agencies, industrial organizations and other duly credited groups requiring information regarding any branch of Bacteriology and Microbiology, especially on problems related to the war."
The only reference to BW is in a report from Oct. 1943: "On the basis of recommendations made by members of the Committee and by other members of the Society, a program of activities was drawn up to cover the following fields:… 9) [of 9] Bacteriological warfare and the effect of warfare upon essential bacterial processes (gas warfare and soil bacteria)."
In fact, the majority of the Committee's activities had to do with the status of bacteriology as a science, and with the professional status of bacteriologists in regard to the war effort. There may be seeds here of questions regarding certification, which became more overt in the late 40s, and led to the Academy in 1955.
15 May, 1947: A resolution was introduced from the floor of the General Business Meeting, calling for the international control of biological weapons. This was referred to an ad hoc committee to see if it should be released as coming from the Society; there appears to have been no further action.
"Resolution: Whereas the advances of science and technology have produced weapons of destruction, of which biological warfare is one, which in our professional judgment endanger the survival of modern civilization, and whereas we believe that biological warfare does not lend itself even to the degree of control that atomic warfare does. Our conclusion is that every possible effort should be directed toward building up a system of world-wide cooperation through the United Nations to ensure the world against war. (Signed)
R. Y. Stanier
S. E. Luria
T. E. Anderson
C.-E. A. Winslow"
The Committee appointed to look into this matter consisted of J. Howard Mueller (Chairman), Walter Nungester, Stuart Mudd, with President Thomas Francis, Jr. and Secretary Leland Parr ex officio.
[July, 1947: 4th International Congress of Microbiology passes a resolution condemning biological warfare:
"The Fourth International Congress for Microbiology joins the International Society of Cell Biology in condemning in the strongest possible terms all forms of biological warfare. The Congress considers such barbaric methods as absolutely unworthy of any civilized community and trusts that all Microbiologists throughout the world will do everything in their power to prevent their exploitation."]
April, 1951: Ad Hoc Committee on Biological Warfare formed.
May, 1951: This committee reports as "Committee on Information Concerning Civil Defense against Biological Warfare." They also publish a resolution in the Aug., 1951 NLSAB.
From appointment letter from President Nungester: "It is hoped that this committee aided by their consultant [one member was not a member of SAB] will compile a list of questions answers for which seem necessary if bacteriologists throughout the country are to act intelligently in doing their share in the Civilian Defense Program."Their resolution, (NLSAB 17:3, p. 2):
Whereas it has been reported by official government sources that biological warfare might be used and might be an effective means of warfare, and
Whereas members of this Society are being extensively consulted by persons concerned with civil defense seeking specific information on which to base their plans, and
Whereas members of this Society have little detailed information of use in meeting these requests, and
Whereas official published information released up to the present time has been of a more general nature than would be most useful to bacteriologists in meeting these requests for aid in civil defense planning
Therefore, be it resolved that we express the hope that the Civil Defense Administration will make available in the near future such specific technical information as may be properly released, in order to enable bacteriologists and other technical personnel to meet their community responsibilities relative to civilian defense."
The report (8-IE, Folder 2) offers more specifics regarding the constituencies and questions involved.
8 June, 1952: ASM officials begin to prepare a response to a published letter from M. Frederic Joliot-Curie, who accused the U.S. of using biological weapons in Korea.
Joliot-Curie (1900-1958) is President of the World Council of Peace; his accusation is based on information from the President of the Chinese Committee for the Defense of Peace. It is unclear whether the response was ever sent, or even composed. However, the correspondence includes some thoughtful discussions among Henry Scherp, Richard Donovick and Gail Dack on the whole issue of some sort of Society statement, or the holding of a symposium at the next meeting. Of additional interest in this context is a letter (allegedly) from members of the Polish Microbiological Society to Buchanan and Werkman at Iowa State, and the reply from them. This file also contains a printed reply by Joliot-Curie to a Warren Austin, defending his original accusation. All in 8-IE, Folder 2
1955: Advisory Committee to the Chemical Corps (Ft. Detrick) established. (The name of this committee changes frequently over the years, as the structure of command at Ft. Detrick changes.)
Council Minutes, May 8, 1955: "President Halvorson presented a request, from the Chemical Corp of the Army, that a committee be appointed by the Society to advise the Chemical Corp on microbiological questions. The American Chemical Society has appointed such an advisory committee to the mutual satisfaction and benefit of both the A.C.S. and the armed forces." The committee's reports indicate primarily that they met at Ft. Detrick, spoke with commanders and scientists regarding "problems, " and made recommendations. Perhaps because members required a security clearance, the specifics of their activities were not made available to the general SAB membership. It is apparent, however, that at least part of their advice had to do with the professional status and problems of Ft. Detrick scientists.
By 1967, there is a bit if defensiveness detectable: see the somewhat lengthy report in ASM News 33:3, p. 20-21. A one-sentence paragraph reads: "The committee has no responsibilities regarding the moral, political, or military aspects of BW."
7 April, 1967: Northern California Branch requests information on why the Ft. Detrick committee exists, and what are its purposes.
The apparent precipitating factor here is an article by one Elinor Langer (no citation offered) titled "Chemical and Biological Warfare: The Research Program." See Northern California Branch Newsletters for March, October and November of 1967. There was apparently a special meeting of the Branch, with representatives from the national Society.
May, 1967: A motion from the floor at the Annual Business Meeting to disband the Ft. Detrick Advisory Committee was defeated, twice.
Copy of the motion is in 8-IA, Folder 1. It was sponsored "by a group of ASM members." Contact person was Dr. I. Smith, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx. Discussion at the Annual Business Meeting is summarized in some detail in ASM News 33:3, p. 16.
15 March, 1968: The Advisory Committee to Ft. Detrick recommends that the committee be dissolved. They cite their lack of influence with the command, not ethical or moral grounds.
The main complaints are that the committee meets too infrequently to be an effective technical advisory panel, and that Army Department reorganization removed the chance for the Committee to have real influence because it no longer reported directly to the Chief Chemical Officer. "We feel that our Committee (and thus our Society) is now in the uncomfortable position of being expected to furnish technical advice it cannot give and suspected of playing a role in governmental policy it does not have." The suggestion is made that the Detrick Technical Director work to establish a panel of non-governmental scientific consultants that will be able to work more effectively than the Committee. The point is made that such a panel would have no official connection to the Society, although many of its members would also belong to SAB.
The second major proposal of the report is the formation of an SAB Committee on Public Policy. [A Public Affairs Committee was appointed in 1973; the Public and Scientific Affairs Board was established in 1979]
4 May, 1968: Dissolution of the Ft. Detrick Advisory Committee is approved by the CPC. The decision is sustained by the full Council the next day.
President Luria mentions the dissolution in his Presidential Address, and it makes the newspapers; also Science, May 24.
8 May, 1968: Under urging from Dr. Merrill Snyder, the Business meeting votes that the Advisory Committee should be reinstated.
Snyder memorandum is in many locations in the Archives, e.g., 8-IA, Folder 1, which also contains verbatim transcript of discussion at the meeting. Of course, the Business Meeting doesn't have the authority to do anything other than make a recommendation to Council
1 October, 1968: Mail vote of the full Council upholds the dissolution.
April, 1970: Council approves statement endorsing President Nixon's ending of US BW Research.
J. Roger Porter and Salvador Luria were to be ASM representatives to the Biological Warfare Colloquium at the X International Congress of Microbiology. The statement to be made by themon behalf of the Society follows: "The Council of the Society affirms that the health of science is enhanced by non-secret research and free movement of scientists. Furthermore, the Council affirms support of President Nixon's action on November 25, 1969 and February 14, 1970 to end our involvement in the production and use of biological weapons. Because of our concern for humanitarian application of microbiological science we urge that all nations convert existing offensive biological warfare facilities to peaceful uses."
December, 1970: Resolution on Biological Warfare adopted by the X International Congress is accepted by CPC.
This resolution is appended to the rather lengthy report of Porter and Luria. See ASM News 37:2, 1971, p. 16-17. No official action is taken on this resolution at the 1971 Council/CPC meeting.
May, 1978: Policy on social, moral and political issues is adopted by Council.
Motivated primarily by non-BW controversies (plight of Soviet scientists, boycotting, for purposes of ASM meetings, states which have not ratified ERA, etc.), President Rasmussen introduces a proposed policy governing the Society's approach to these issues. After considerable discussion, the following resolution is passed: "Recognizing the objectives of the Society as prescribed in the ASM Constitution and the legal obligation of the elected officers, the CPC, and Council in directing the Society in accordance with these objectives, the following principle is established for guidance in dealing with various social, moral, and political issues.It shall be the position of the Society to act only on those issues in which microbiology is a major component, or where the knowledge of microbiology is important in reaching a sound decision."See Minutes (ASM News 44:8, 1978, p. 404), article by officers (ASM News 44:9, 469-71) and letter from Lawrence Sturman (ASM News 45:1, 1979, 14-17)
1985-87: 1970 Resolution on BW reaffirmed.
March, 1985: At the PSAB meeting, Harlyn Halvorson reports that ASM has been asked by a member from Tulane for its position on BW. Halvorson agrees to work with AAM ChairWilliam Hausler to develop a group to review this The draft statement offered in March, 1986 essentially affirms the 1970 resolution. See also Halvorson's response to a letter to the editor, ASM News 53:3, 1987, p. 121
1988-: BW becomes topic at meetings.
During this period, the general topic of BW is addressed at a number of ASM meetings:
- 1988 GM: Roundtable: "Defense-Related Biological Research."
- 1991: Conference at UMBC: The Microbiologist and Biological Defense Research: Ethics, Politics and Security."
- 1991 ICAAC: Symposium: "Biological Warfare."
- 1992 GM: President's Forum: "Biological Warfare: An Old Problem - Future Concerns."
May, 1993: Council approves "Scientific Principles to Guide Biological Weapons Verification."
Document presented by PSAB Chair Ken Berns. Copy in 6-IIA, Folder 6, 1993. See also letter from Nancy Connell, with reply from Berns, ASM News 60:9, 1994, p. 455
December, 1994: PSAB Task Force on BW established.
Reports are in 1996-2001 PSAB agenda packs, 6-IIA, Folder 2. See also Public Affairs reports in ASM News, as well as various articles there: in the years following the Gulf War, BW becomes a regular topic.
2001: Society provides access to online resources concerning Bio Warfare.
Click here for current online resources: Biosecurity
2003: ASM Holds First Annual Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting.
The American Society for Microbiology launched the annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting as a forum for the discussion of new data from the research of microbiological sciences related to biodefense and bioterrorism, the latest information on preventative modalities, therapeutics, and clinical diagnoses related to biothreat agents, and the most recent trends in the management and planning of biodefense programstopic. Click Here for additional information: ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting - Dates and Locations
September 25, 2014 - United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences DURC
On September 24 the United States Government issued the final US Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC. The Office of Public Affairs sent a notice to ASM members about the Oversight document.
August 29, 2013 - Revised NIH Policy: Mitigating Risks of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC)
The NIH published its revised policy on “Mitigating Risks of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC).” The notice reflects the federal government’s 2012 policy for the oversight of life sciences DURC, which is defined as “research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security.” Mitigation plans will be required for projects determined to be DURC, based on an administrative review.
April 5, 2013 - Summary of Recent Dual Use/Biosafety Research Policies
The ASM has compiled a summary of recent Dual Use/Biosafety Research Policy responses.
March 27, 2013 - ASM Comments on Dual Use Research Policy
ASM sent comments to the Office of Science and Technology Policy regarding the February 22, 2013 United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern
March 25, 2013 - ASM Comments on NIH Recombinant DNA Molecules Guidelines
The ASM sent comments to the NIH's Office of Biotechnology Activities regarding changes to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules.
February 21, 2013 - U.S. Government Releases Proposed Policy for Dual Use Research of Concern
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released for public review and comment the proposed policy for institutional oversight of life sciences dual use research of concern.
December 14, 2012 - ASM Comments on Influenza Viruses Containing the Hemagglutinin from the Goose/Guangdong/1/96 Lineage
The ASM submitted comments in response to the Federal Register Notice, "Influenza Viruses Containing the Hemagglutinin from the Goose/Guangdong/1/96 Lineage."
October 17, 2012 - CDC Requests Comments Concerning Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a notice in today’s Federal Register announcing the opening of a docket to obtain information and comments from the public to questions concerning highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses that contain a hemagglutinin (HA) from the Goose/Guangdong/1/96 lineage, and their potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.
October 9, 2012 - DHHS and APHIS Revised Select Agent Final Rules Published
The DHHS and APHIS published regulatory changes to the Select Agent and Toxin rules in the October 5, 2012 Federal Register.
April 26, 2012 - National Select Agent Registry Website Change of Address
On May 1, 2012, the http://www.selectagent.gov web address will no longer be available and its presence will be eliminated from the World Wide Web. Please remove or update any personal links, bookmarks or favorites you may have saved for this site. To access the Federal Select Agent Program, you will need to use the following website link http://www.selectagents.gov.
April 19, 2012 - Dual Use Research of Concern Update
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released a response from Dr. Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology policy regarding the Administration’s safeguards for dual use research, in response to his concerns that the current ad hoc approach was inadequate to balance the priorities of national security and the free flow of academic ideas. The link above contains both Rep. Sensenbrenner's original letter and Dr. Holdren's response.
March 30, 2012 - Now Available: US Government Issues Policy on Oversight of Life Science Dual Use Research of Concern
The purpose of this Policy is to establish regular review of United States Government funded or conducted research with certain high-consequence pathogens and toxins for its potential to be dual use research of concern (DURC) in order to: (a) mitigate risks where appropriate; and (b) collect information needed to inform the development of an updated policy, as needed, for the oversight of DURC. The fundamental aim of this oversight is to preserve the benefits of life sciences research while minimizing the risk of misuse of the knowledge, information, products, or technologies provided by such research.
December 1, 2011 - ASM Comments on Proposed Changes to the CDC List of Biological Agents and Toxins
The ASM sent comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the October 3 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which requested input on the proposed changes to the DHHS list of biological agents and toxins that have potential as severe threats to public health and safety.
December 1, 2011 - ASM Comments on Proposed Changes to the APHIS List of Biological Agents and Toxins
The ASM sent comments to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on the October 3 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which requested input on the proposed changes to the USDA list of biological agents and toxins that have potential as severe threats to public health and safety.
October 3, 2011 - CDC and APHIS Release Biennial Review and Republication of the Select Agent and Toxin List
In the Federal Register, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have published the Biennial Review and Republication of the Select Agent and Toxin List.
June 14, 2011 - Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel Releases Recommendations on Select Agents and Toxins The Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel (FESAP) released its recommendations concerning the Select Agent Program.
August 31, 2010 - ASM Invited to Testify before Federal Biosecurity Panel
The ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board was invited to present comments on August 31 at the meeting of the Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel (FESAP).
August 30, 2010 - ASM Comments on the Proposed Changes to the APHIS List of Select Agents and Toxins
The ASM sent comments to APHIS on the Federal Register notice, "Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002; Biennial Review and Republication of the Select Agent and Toxin List; Reorganization of the Select Agent and Toxin List."
August 19, 2010 - ASM Comments on the Changes to the HHS List of Select Agents and Toxins
The ASM sent comments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responding to the July 21, 2010 Federal Register Notice, "Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002; Biennial Review and Republication of the Select Agent and Toxin List."
July 7, 2010 - President's Executive Order on Optimizing the Security of Biological Agents and Toxins in the United States
On July 2, the President released an Executive Order on Optimizing the Security of Biological Agents and Toxins in the United States. The Executive Order directs federal agencies to institute changes in the current implementation of the Select Agent Program (SAP) and Regulations (SAR) within their existing statutory authorities.
September 8, 2009 - ASM Comments on the Proposed Addition of SARS-CoV to the List of Select Agents and Toxin
ASM commented on the proposal to add SARS associated Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) to the list of HHS select agents and toxins, published in the July 13, 2009, Federal Register, Vo. 74, No. 132.
December 19, 2005 - ASM Comments on Possession, Use, and Transfer of Select Agents and Toxins--Reconstructed Replication Competent Forms of the 1918 Pandemic Influenza Virus Containing Any Portion of the Coding Regions of All Eight Gene Segments
ASM commented on the interim final rule published in the October 20, 2005 Federal Registered on the reconstructed replication competent forms of the 1918 pandemic influenza virus containing any portion of the coding regions of all eight gene segments.
May 10, 2009 -Meeting of the Working Group on Strengthening the Biosecurity of the United States
September 9, 2005 - Survey for Determining the Location, Capacity, and Status of Existing and Operating BSL-3 Laboratory Facilities within the United States
In October 2004, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in partnership with ASM, conducted a survey of academic, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical--but not federal--entities in the United States regarding the location, capacity, and status of domestic laboratories with biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) containment facilities and equipment. BSL-3 containment is used in clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research, and production facilities in which work is done with microbial agents that may cause serious or lethal disease.
The American Society for Microbiology sponsors the annual ASM Biothreats Meeting (formerly known as ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting) as a forum for the discussion of new data from the research of microbiological sciences related to biodefense and bioterrorism, the latest information on preventative modalities, therapeutics, and clinical diagnoses related to biothreat agents, and the most recent trends in the management and planning of biodefense programs. A list of meeting dates and locations is below.
**meeting name changed to "ASM Biothreats" in 2017
The 2018 ASM Biothreats Meeting was held
February 12-14, 2018 in Baltimore, MD
The 2017 ASM Biothreats Meeting** was held
February 6–8, 2017 in Washington, DC
The 14th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 8-10, 2016 in Arlington, VA
The 13th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 9-11, 2015 in Washington, DC
The 12th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
January 27-29, 2014 in Washington, DC
The 11th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 25-27, 2013 in Washington, DC
The 10th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 26-29, 2012 in Washington, DC
The 9th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 6-9, 2011 in Washington, DC
The 8th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 21-24, 2010 in Baltimore, MD
The 7th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 22-25, 2009 in Baltimore, MD
The 6th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 24-27, 2008 in Baltimore, MD
The 5th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 27-March 2, 2007 in Washington, DC
The 4th Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
February 15-18, 2006 in Washington, DC
The 3rd Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
March 20-23, 2005 in Baltimore, MD
The 2nd Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
March 7-10, 2004 in Baltimore, MD
The 1st Annual ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting was held
March 9-12, 2003 in Baltimore, MD