Workshops organised by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk​ University of Cambridge​ on 21st & 22nd March 2017


1. "Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention: Where Next?"

2. "Developing a Research Agenda and Methodologies for Extreme Bio-Risks"


"The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) focuses on the understanding, management and mitigation of risks from emerging technologies and human activity, which threaten humanity’s survival, even if only with very low probability. We are particularly interested in areas in which our work can provide significant added value, e.g. risks that are understudied at present, or where our convening power can help shift agendas, or achieve progress on specific issues."


With the participation of:
Biological Weapons Convention​ Implementation Support Unit (ISU) which is located in the Geneva branch of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs UN Geneva).


The Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford University)​ (University of Oxford​)
"FHI is a multidisciplinary research institute at the University of Oxford. Academics at FHI bring the tools of mathematics, philosophy, social sciences, and science to bear on big-picture questions about humanity and its prospects."


Tweet by the BWC ISU:



Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (UN Geneva, 7th to 25th November 2016)



(A review is performed every 5 years)

State Department- Bureau of International Security and Non Proliferation on Twitter concerning the Eighth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention:
"Find #BWCRC8 daily rpts here. Today: future mandate of @BWCISU"
The daily reports are written by Richard Guthrie.
Richard Guthrie was involved in a long-term collaboration with the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons (CWB) (by Harvard University & University of Sussex) from 1988 to 2003, where he was responsible for the production of "The CBW Conventions Bulletin" and for managing certain data resources.
Harvard Sussex Program website had been moved to the Sussex end of the program:


"The 8th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) ended today, 25 November, in great disappointment".

Quote by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders (Belgium), expert in armament and disarmament, covering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, as well as space policy.
France Desarmement: #BWCRC8 the outcome is disappointing but we need to continue to work on tangible steps.
Sweden Arms Control: Outcome of #BWCRC8 below our expectations. No strengthening of inter-sessional process. Will try again next year. #BTWC @BWCISU
MFA Russia @mfa_russia: Russia is deeply disappointed by the result of the Eighth Review Conference of Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention …
@mfa_russia tweet
@infobook tweet
.@mfa_russia disappointed of #BWCRC8 #BioWeapons. Proposed advisory committee to analyse science & tech achievements…
State ISN Bureau @ISNAsstSecy: Norm against use of bio weapons remains strong, despite less-than-satisfactory outcome of review conference. #BWCRC8
State ISN Bureau @ISNAsstSecyUS sought agreement on work-plan that allows for intensive expert work & for taking decisions more often. #BWCRC8

(1/4) @TMCountryman spoke at State/Energy’s “Nuclear Explosion Monitoring: 60 Years of Science and Innovation,” highlighting AVC’s V Fund




(4/4) Interested in learning more about the V Fund? Visit… #VerifyingDisarmament



@infobook tweet
Letter by President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (#PCAST :…) @whitehouseostp on CRISPR as biothreat

PCAST letter to Pres Obama on bioterror threat posed by CRISPR.

semyorka's avatar

Obama advisers urge action against CRISPR bioterror threat - via @techreview…

Amanda Moodie of the US delegationt at the 8th Review of Biological Weapons Convention #BWCRC8 referring on Twitter to article of Washington Post: 
"First time that I can recall a BWC RevCon making the Post...too bad the attention is because of the "dismal outcome""
@moodieamanda tweet



Declassified US Navy training film – Naval Concepts of Biological and Chemical Warfare


The 1950s California & SE Coast Biowarfare tests: Spraying biosimulant and fluorescent particles and assessing dispersal 


Excerpt from wikipedia "United States Biological Weapons Program":

 "(…) in November 1942 U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt officially approved an American biological weapons program.

In the spring of 1943 the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories were established at Fort (then Camp) Detrick in Maryland."



Excerpt from PBS "American Experience" history series website:
 "The start of the Cold War brought new foes and new fears for the officials running America’s biological weapons program. Determined to anticipate possible Soviet attacks, the U.S. staged more than 200 domestic tests aimed at assessing national vulnerabilities to biological warfare".


Declassified* US Navy training film – Naval Concepts of Biological and Chemical Warfare




Transcript - Selected excerpts:

"This film will first show what the Navy is planning for the offensive employment of biological and chemical warfare."

[2:25] "Navy delivery and dispersion of the agents started with tests made in 1950. A rather crude spraying system was installed on a minelayer, which, in September of that year secretly cruised off California and sprayed some 50 gallons of biological simulant along a track 2 to 5 miles off shore. Within an hour, the simulant has been carried ashore by the wind. Sampling tests indicated that about 48 square miles of heavily populated area were contaminated. Had an infectious agent been used in the spray, there might have been 210,000 casualties."

With that experiment successful, the South East Coast of the United States was selected for a larger scale test. The rather flat array would be favorable to wide dispersion of wind-borne particles. But wide dispersion of course would depend upon the existence of the proper weather conditions. After extensive studies it was determined that the track along here [image at 3.34 - cf below] from 5 to 15 miles off shore should do the job. Accordingly in April 1952 The USS Tercel cruised along some 100 miles of coastline, spraying 250 pounds of fluorescent tracer particles. The operation lasted about 8 hours. Sampling tests made throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia indicated that an area of some 20,000 square miles received these particles, proving that it is possible to contaminate extrememy large land areas by releasing sprays at sea under the proper weather conditions."

*Video declassified under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published at Government Attic link 


1950 Biological Warfare Educational Video by the US Federal Civil Defense Administration to prepare the population for the event of a #Biowarfare attack #Bioweapons

Figure: Screen capture from above video demonstrating the area selected for the SE coast biowarfare tests



@infobook tweet


The 1950 infection of San Francisco with a non pathogenic trackable bacterium by the US Navy in the frame of its #Biowarfare Program

In 1950, Stanford University Hospital receives patients from San Francisco and identifies that are infected with the bacterium Serratia marcescens. This infection had never been recorded before and Serratia marcescens was considered until then to be a harmless microbe which has a distinct feature, the production of a red pigment that can be used to track it.

What was the story behind the infection with a non-pathogenic trackable bacterium ?

It appears that this was an experimental infection of San Franscisco from the sea with Serratia marcescens and it was performed by the US Navy in the frame of the US Biowarfare program officially started in the 1940s. Over a period of 6 days in September 1950, the US Navy had sprayed clouds of Serratia from a vessel at a distance of two miles from the San Francisco coastline.

Excerpt* from Discover Magazine 

"A 1951 military report on the experiment summarized the findings: 'It was noted that a successful BW [biological warfare] attack on this area can be launched from the sea, and that effective dosages can be produced over relatively large areas'".

(*This seems to be the original article that has been cited in many different articles)

Credit to Robert Duncan for his post


@infobook tweet


1950 Biological Warfare Educational Video

by the US Federal Civil Defense Administration to prepare the population for the event of a Biowarfare attack


@infobook tweet