Sandia has been an integral partner with U.S. government and international agencies working to counter and mitigate biological threats for more than a decade. The most visible examples are Sandia's contributions to the response and investigation following the 2001 anthrax letters, which were mailed to several news media outlets and the offices of two U.S. senators. Our decontamination foam was used to sanitize the contaminated buildings. Our historical strengths in nonproliferation, threat identification, risk assessment, and physical security prompted multiple agencies to dispatch our teams worldwide to advise on biosecurity and safeguards. And our scientists were asked to examine the anthrax spores used in the attack to determine whether they had been manipulated for use in a weapon.
The expertise Sandia has developed was by design. Our depth of experience and historical perspective derived from the front lines of nonproliferation and bioterrorism prompted Sandia to invest early in complementary specialties that cover the entire biological threat lifecycle.
The result is a comprehensive destination for science, technology, and engineering capabilities, combined with policy insight and national security expertise that aligns with the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats.
Sandia's Countering Biological Threats programs represent a creative and comprehensive collection of integrated capabilities. We combine cutting-edge biosciences skills, acute policy and geo-political insights, professional engagement expertise, engineering excellence, and a command of computational technologies that produces both targeted intelligence and programmatic support across the board.
Our approach enables agencies and organizations to expand their reach across the entire lifecycle of a biological threat – from awareness to prevention, preparedness to detection, and response to recovery.
The Threat Lifecycle and Our Capabilities
Awareness and Prevention Systems Analysis Deriving knowledge and producing insight from vast stores of data is critical across all capabilities that comprise Sandia's Countering Biological Threats programs. Sandia builds and utilizes analytical models and simulation tools to develop operational and response plans, assess and analyze risk and vulnerabilities, and anticipate future threats and needs. Sandia's computational capacity supports multiple national security initiatives but it's pivotal to producing the knowledge and insight that help position communities ahead of emerging threats, identifying gaps and vulnerabilities, and guiding program prioritization. Global Engagement The origin of a biological threat is the scientist capable of reproducing or manipulating dangerous agents and prevention begins with instilling in them the safe and responsible use of the life sciences. Sandia is enhancing national security by engaging scientific communities globally to promote biosafety and biosecurity measures, and assist in developing and fostering beneficial life sciences pursuits. A veteran contributor to the nation's Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, Sandia models its international initiatives as partnerships that strengthen local scientific communities and facilities to reduce the vulnerability of dual-use materials, equipment, and expertise. Preparedness and Detection Environmental Sensors and Systems Early detection of a biological agent is critical to stemming the spread of disease and saving lives should an attack occur. Sandia bioscience researchers work with engineers, operational specialists, and systems analysts to design and deliver detection systems for a range of environments and physical structures. Sandia is a recognized leader in designing next-generation environmental screening tools and has developed holistic systems that incorporate operational realities and methods to help authorities deploy and utilize them. Biological Countermeasures Identifying specific biological threats and potential future threats relies upon an acute understanding of the fundamental biological and chemical processes of both pathogens and human hosts. Sandia is scrutinizing pathogen and human cell interactions to identify and develop appropriate diagnostics, treatments, forensic frameworks, and other countermeasures. This knowledge is helping produce pre-symptomatic diagnostic profiles and devices that will identify infection faster and speed the deployment of resources, therapeutics, and protective measures to communities affected by disease. Response and Recovery Forensics Both counterterrorism and emergency response programs must factor in the reality of individual criminals, their capture, and their prosecution. Combining biosciences knowledge and a cutting-edge capacity for leveraging microfluidics, Sandia is developing the tools and scientific methods for rapid DNA identification in the field. Initiatives that leverage start-of-the-art imaging technologies, biological research, and weapons insight support a range of programs by assisting law enforcement communities in identifying specific agents and whether they’ve been manipulated for use in local or wide area attacks. Consequence Management Sandia specialists possess an acute understanding of both the potential threat and the potential targets. This means Sandia consistently evaluates everyday environments to identify vulnerabilities, translates them into specific needs, identifies required technologies (designing new ones when necessary), and develops real-world deployment and operational models that take into account real people in actual buildings will be utilizing the systems. The systems, such as citywide environmental monitoring, and the supportive operational models, assist government planners, protective forces, and emergency response personnel to utilize new technologies and execute on new scenario plans. Decontamination and Restoration Transitioning from immediate response to near- and long-term recovery in the wake of a pandemic requires an extensive series of complex decisions. Looking at large cities and surrounding suburbs and determining which structures should be cleaned first, what methods should be used, how citizens can be assured of their safety, and how to prioritize private homes and businesses is a monumental task. By combining science-based solutions and methodologies with operational plans and processes, Sandia scientists and systems analysts helped develop regional blueprints that could minimize casualties and speed the cleanup and recovery of communities in the wake of a major disease-driven event.