Next month is the hundredth anniversary of the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which ultimately cost 50-100 million lives worldwide and reduced life expectancy in the U.S. by 12 years. The most important reason to remember that devastating pandemic today is that scientists now know how to synthesize such pathogens in a laboratory. In fact, a Canadian team came very close to replicating the smallpox virus last year, and then proceeded to explain how in a published paper. This is dangerous stuff. As gene modification becomes cheaper and more widely understood, the chances grow that it will be used with malevolent intent. Yet the federal government has done little to prepare for the day when biowar is loosed upon America. Washington doesn’t need to spend hugely on this threat, but considering the potential consequences of a pandemic, it should spend more that the four hours of federal funding currently allocated each year to biodefense preparedness. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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