March 14, 2019 —
At CSWMD's March Spotlight Seminar, Dr. David Wunschel presented examples of current research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the fields of chemical and biological forensics. Timely, confident information on whether an agent is man-made or from a natural source can be a crucial aid to the US government response to suspected cases of biological terrorism. The recent past has seen both intentional and natural cases of inhalation anthrax in urban locations, atypical for that disease, illustrating a need for that capability. Furthermore, investigative leads can be derived from information on the sophistication or methods of production for both infectious and toxic agents. Numerous ricin cases in the same time period present a different challenge of determining production methods and sophistication. The talk included examples of how these forensic needs can be met through laboratory analysis that will support investigators, analysts and policy makers. It also highlighted the challenges and current progress adapting emerging laboratory tools into robust, defensible methods for forensic sample characterization.