The threat of bio-terrorism is real. It is becoming increasingly
possible for terrorists to produce and deploy bio-weapons. The fact
that we see a movement in interest among non-state actors towards
biological weapons usage and the continued advancement of
biotechnology increases the availability and weaponization
potential of dangerous pathogens, thus increasing the likelihood of
a bioweapon attack.
Biological weapons can range in lethality from salmonella, used
to temporarily incapacitate, to smallpox which can cause mass
casualties. Biological attacks have already taken place and
continue to be a noticeable probability for the foreseeable future.
However, of greatest concern is the capability to deliver a sizable
lethal attack against a large population group.
Smallpox is rated among the most dangerous of all potential
biological weapons, with far-reaching ramifications.
Although officially eradicated in 1980, the risk of a smallpox
recurrence is real: Natural sources include UN repositories,
archived laboratory specimens, mutation of a related poxvirus or
resurrection of virus outside labs. Intentional release might
result from unauthorized acquisition from UN repositories,
offensive state programs or laboratory genetic synthesis; the world
has witnessed a knowledge explosion in the life sciences based on
an understanding of genes and how they work, e.g. the cost of
creating a virus is dropping exponentially. Thus, a researcher
could order all the necessary base pairs to create a smallpox virus
for between USD 2,000 and USD 20,000 (1).
If smallpox does recur, the consequence of being unprepared
would be a global catastrophe. An unchecked epidemic in today's
unvaccinated, densely packed urban populations, which are linked by
rapid air travel, could kill millions.
The development of effective preventative and therapeutic
countermeasures against potential biological weapons is one of
Bavarian Nordic's key business priorities. The company strives to
establish a biodefence portfolio that offers vaccines against the
most threatening biological agents. The most advanced product in
the pipeline is IMVAMUNE® which is Bavarian Nordic's third
generation smallpox vaccine. In addition, an Anthrax vaccine is in
(1) Hammes, p. 14-23; May-June 2007, Military Review