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LAB NOTES: Biosecurity conference wraps up

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By The Staff

An important but relatively minor theme at Los Alamos National Laboratory began a bid for a bigger role this week. The lab’s Center for Biosecurity Science hosted a workshop on the role of the biosciences in national security.Duncan McBranch, deputy principal associate director in the science, technology and engineering directorate, opened the conference on Thursday.The meetings involved more than 100 people across the laboratory, McBranch said Friday afternoon as the conference ended.“It was about things the laboratory has been doing for many years,” he said, noting that it was a way to reinforce the laboratory’s dominant theme, which is national security.“We have a diverse staff working for a diverse set of sponsors, but there hasn’t been a mechanism to communicate at a technical level,” McBranch said.The biosecurity community at the lab includes researchers in bioforensics, bioinformatics, global surveillance of pandemic diseases, immune response, influenza databases, modeling, information sciences, molecular biology and biosafety.Customers and sponsors included the National Institutes of Health; the energy, homeland security and defense departments; and the law enforcement and intelligence communities.On the agenda were questions about thematic clusters that might be coordinated, based on ongoing projects and capabilities. The next step, said McBranch, will be identifying specific opportunities, followed by building teams and developing new proposals.The Biosecurity Center, headed by Laboratory Fellow Tom Terwilliger, is still only a virtual center at this point but it could contribute to the “mission growth” that the laboratory is looking for, McBranch said.“The overall sense that I got reinforced the tremendous vitality at the lab in science that cross disciplinary boundaries,” he added. “Our technical staff remains the source of new vitality.”