Epidemics are a national security problem. Technologies can help.

Reading List

A number of books have been written on infectious disease, biothreats, biotechnology, and advances in bioscience. Here are a couple that have stood out to us:

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D.A. Henderson

Smallpox: The Death of a Disease

An extraordinary story of how one of the greatest achievements in the history of medicine was accomplished, written by the man who lead the effort.  D.A. pulls no punches in describing the obstacles which confronted the eradication effort, including the WHO bureaucracy, and how they were overcome. DA wrote as he talked, and to read this book is to be in the room with one of public health’s greatest leaders.

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Paul G. Falkowski

Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable

A vibrantly entertaining book about the microbes that support our very existence, Life’s Engines will inspire wonder about these elegantly complex nanomachines that have driven life since its origin. It also issues a timely warning about the dangers of tinkering with that machinery to make it more “efficient” at meeting the ever-growing demands of humans in the coming century.

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George Church and Ed Regis


In Regenesis, Church and Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, it even enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took.

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W. Brian Arthur

The Nature of Technology

The Nature of Technology is an elegant and powerful theory of technology’s origins and evolution. Achieving for the development of technology what Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions did for scientific progress, Arthur explains how transformative new technologies arise and how innovation really works.

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David Quammen

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Scientific American Best Book of the Year, and a Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. In this gripping account, David Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge and asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?

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J. Craig Venter

Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life

In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create “synthetic life”—putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.

In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside—detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question “What is life?” and examine what we really mean by “playing God.” Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.

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Article List

Academic, private, and government institutions all produce meaning research on an ongoing basis. Below are a few articles that capture some important perspectives on biodefense:

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Robert Carlson

Estimating the biotech sector’s contribution to the US economy

US biotech sector revenue is estimated to have grown on average >10% each year over the past decade—much faster than the rest of the economy. A more comprehensive assessment of biotech’s economic contribution, however, will require improved data collection, classification and analysis.

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Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense

A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts

 The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense was established in 2014 to assess gaps and provide recommendations to improve U.S. biodefense. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Study Panel. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, and the Honorable Kenneth Wainstein serve as members.


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After-Action Report

Navigating the Storm: Report and Recommendations from the Atlantic Storm Exercise

Navigating the Storm: Report and Recommendations from the Atlantic Storm Exercise. Biosecur Bioterror. 2005; 3: 256–267

Smith BT, Inglesby TV, Brimmer E, Borio L, Franco C, Gronvall GK, Kramer B, Maldin B, Nuzzo JB, Schuler A, Stern S, Henderson DA, Larsen RJ, Hamilton DS, O’Toole T.

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Some resources for staying up to date on biodefense and infectious disease information:

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John Hopkins School of Public Health (JHSPH) Center for Health Security

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to protect people’s health from the consequences of epidemics and disasters and to make communities more resilient to major challenges.

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