Sunday, February 2, 2014

Iran: Historic Structure of Biological Weapons Programs: Chapter Two

Historic Structure of Biological Weapon Programs




smallpox

In 1991, Joe Esposito and the molecular biologist Craig Venter, who was at the National Institutes of Health, sequenced the entire genome of the Rahima strain of smallpox; that is, they mapped its entire DNA. They found that the virus contains a hundred and eighty-six thousand base pairs of DNA (each base pair being a step on the ladder of the molecule), and that the DNA contains about a hundred and eighty-seven genes-making smallpox one of the most complicated viruses known. (The AIDS virus has only ten genes.)[1]

The intense secrecy and dual-use nature that surround offensive biological weapons programs makes it difficult to accurately assess the structure, location, research and development of such programs.[2] Nearly any discussion of clandestine BW laboratories and resulting warfare programs begin with a review of the massive Soviet biological weapon program known as Biopreparat. Biopreparat was run by the Soviet Union beginning in the 1920’s. It encompassed many of the same structural characteristics a modern-day clandestine BW program contains. Notably, the structure was multi-tiered, with some facilities producing commercial animal and human vaccines and other therapeutics, while simultaneously conducting research and development applicable to offensive bio-weapon development. The programs were highly compartmentalized and under the direct authority of the state security services. Although the basic infrastructure of clandestine programs remains essentially the same, whether in Iraq, Iran, Syria or the DPRK, what has changed is the nature of the biological weapon itself. Rapid developments in the life sciences and bio-technology have led to marked and direct consequences to critical aspects within clandestine biological weapons complexes.

The Soviet Biopreparat program was one of the largest known biological weapon programs to date. It was spread over approximately 50 clandestine sites and employed between 50,000 to 60,000 workers. Structurally, the Soviet network of facilities involved in developing biological weapons consisted of two primary sections: a section under military control, dating back to the late 1920’s, and a second, top-secret program under civilian cover that was created in the early 1970’s.[3] The Red Army opened the first laboratories for research on pathogenic micro-organisms in 1928.  BW facilities under the direct authority of the Soviet Ministry of Defence included the Scientific Research Institute of Microbiology in Kirov (now Vyantka), the Centre for Military Technical Problems of Anti-Bacteriological Defense in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and the Centre of Virology in Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad). These facilities were administered by the 15th Directorate for Biological Protection of the MoD. The Scientific Research Institute of Military Medicine in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), reported to the Military-Medical Directorate of the MoD. Vozrozhdeniye Island, in the Aral Sea, reported to the 15th Directorate and was the main testing ground for biological agents developed
 Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology[5]

In the early 1970’s, the Soviet authorities began creating a new network of BW facilities parallel to the military system.[6] The basic structure of Biopreparat facilities included eighteen main labs and production centres, these facilities were supported by a network of other institutes and research centres. The list includes: Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology, Institute of Ultra Pure Biochemical Preparations, Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology, the Institute of Applied Biochemistry, the Kirov Bioweapons Production Facility, the Zagorsk Smallpox Production facility, Berdsk Bioweapons Production Facility, Bioweapons Research Facility in Obolensk, the Sverdlovsk Bioweapons Production Facility (Military Compound 19), Poisons Laboratory of the Soviet Secret Services, Vozrozhdeniya.[7] A number of the institutes and programs to develop biological weapons had a latent component, meaning that the capability existed to manufacture and produce biological weapons at short notice. This remains a component of BW programs today.

While structural aspects of Biopreparat are still applied to clandestine bio-weapon programs, advances in genomics, fusion toxins, proteomics, synthetic biology, molecular biology, combinatorial chemistry and our understanding of microbial structure and replication will considerably affect the type of weapon development from state laboratories and the network required to support it.[8] 
See continued 03

Dragon voice recognition



[1]A Reporter at Large, “The Demon in the Freezer, How smallpox, a disease officially eradicated twenty years ago, became the biggest bioterrorist threat we now face”, Richard Preston. http://mcdb.colorado.edu/courses/4350.2006/Biowarfare/The%20Demon%20in%20the%20Freezer.pdf
[2]Guillemin, Jeanne, “Scientists and the History of Biological Weapons”, EBMO Reports, Vol.7, 2006. http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v7/n1s/full/7400689.html 
[3] Bozheyeva, Gulbarshyn, Kunakbayev, Yerlan and Dastan Yeleukenov, “Former Soviet Biological Weapons Facilities in Kazakhstan: Past, Present and Future”, Occasional Paper No.1, Chemical and Biological Weapons Non-Proliferation Project, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, June, 1999. http://cns.miis.edu/opapers/op1/op1.htm#bioprep
[4]Ibid.
[5]National Reconnaissance Office.
[6]Bozheyeva, Gulbarshyn, Kunakbayev, Yerlan and Dastan Yeleukenov, “Former Soviet Biological Weapons Facilities in Kazakhstan: Past, Present and Future”, Occasional Paper No.1, Chemical and Biological Weapons Non-Proliferation Project, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, June, 1999. http://cns.miis.edu/opapers/op1/op1.htm#bioprep
[7]Ibid.
[8]A Reporter at Large, “The Demon in the Freezer, How Smallpox, a disease officially eradicated twenty years ago, became the biggest bioterrorist threat we now face”, Richard Preston. http://mcdb.colorado.edu/courses/4350.2006/Biowarfare/The%20Demon%20in%20the%20Freezer.pdf

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