Books

Biological Threats in the 21st Century was published by Imperial College Press in July 2016. The edited volume was launched with a series of author panel discussions held in Washington DC on 14 October 2016, Geneva on 9 November 2016, and London on 17 November 2016. The series was kicked off with a keynote address by Andrew C. Weber, former Deputy Coordinator for Ebola Response at the US Department of State and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs.

Biological Threats in the 21st Century offers a fresh understanding of contemporary biological threats to national security. The edited volume features up-to-date, rigorous and accessible chapters written by leading international scholars and supplemented by expert point-of-view contributions, interviews and a witness seminar. The volume mixes the perspectives of around 40 academics, biosecurity experts, policymakers, diplomats and activist scientists, with contributions from different generations, in a creative way that leans on the past but points to the future. It is an authoritative and accessible one-stop-shop on the sociopolitics of biological weapons, telling both macro and micro scale stories of biological weapons, the politics surrounding them, the people involved, the science behind this particular form of weaponry and their historical roots.

The book is unique in the scale and constellation of prominent scholars and practitioners it brings together, and the insights and authoritative accounts these experts provide on biological threats and security. The collective contributions form a unique set of viewpoints that are essential to understanding the complexities of biological threats today.

By critically engaging with the personal, political and historical dimensions of biological weapons, the volume highlights how these weapons are not merely the products of particular historical intersections and of technological, political and cultural conjunctures, but also of individual choices and values. The overarching message is that individuals and their moral frameworks matter, not just in the decisions to start and to develop bioweapon programs, or in decisions to use biological weapons, but also in efforts to create a lasting ban on their development and use, and to sustain the moral abhorrence against these weapons. The volume’s ultimate aim is to develop and shape a new generations’ understanding of the social contexts of biological threats and our responses to them, and, through this, to strengthen their resolve that biological weapons are never developed.

Biological Threats in the 21st Century is targeted at graduate students and researchers in security policy, politics, arms control, international relations, risk studies, science and technology studies, amongst others. The Table of Contents, Preface and Chapter 1 are all freely available.  Publisher’s order form.

 

 

SB&B FINAL cover

I am currently writing a textbook on Synthetic Biology & Bioweapons with Catherine Jefferson, Claire Marris and Nikolas Rose. Aimed at undergraduates, postgraduates and established researchers, the textbook will provide an authoritative guide on the key security questions raised by developments in synthetic biology: Will they enable the creation of dangerous viruses from scratch? Will scientific advances enable radically new pathogens not found in nature to be designed? Is synthetic biology breaking down the boundary between experts and non-experts to such an extent that anyone will be able to develop a biological weapon?

Drawing on years of experience working with synthetic biologists, we tackle these questions head on in our assessment of whether the misuse potential of synthetic biology is realistic or exaggerated. Through an accessible and engaging narrative that highlights key messages, questions for discussion and classroom exercises, readers are expertly led through the complex technical, historical, social, political and legal landscape at the intersection of synthetic biology and security.

The book builds on the joint venture between our team of social scientists at King’s College London and the Imperial team of synthetic biologists to establish the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSynBI) and the tremendous success of Synthetic Biology: A Primer which came out of that joint venture. The idea behind Synthetic Biology & Bioweapons is to provide a companion textbook to Synthetic Biology: A Primer that expands the societal impact chapter of the primer through a detailed look at the security concerns raised by the field.

Synthetic Biology & Bioweapons will be published by World Scientific in 2017.