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Today's world poses a triple threat to the American population: infectious diseases, contamination of food and water, and bioattacks (biowarfare or bioterrorism). At least 17 countries are producing weapons of mass destruction using viruses, bacteria, or their toxins. AIDS, E. coli contamination, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and virulent flu strains are perhaps the best known of a host of disease threats. What these dangers have in common is the amount of data required to achieve solutions; in some cases, as much as a petabit (1 followed by 15 zeros) of data is required to study large numbers of samples from widespread locations.

Firepower in the Lab examines how the nation can combat this triple threat by improving our ability to detect, measure, and monitor harmful biological agents. It explores the potential of today's exciting new laboratory automation and computer technologies as well as the emerging tools of molecular biology—how we can generate and analyze more data quickly and reduce human hands-on involvement, which inevitably introduces errors.

The book discusses how to improve and apply technologies such as robotics, laboratory automation, "lab-on-a-chip," bioinformatics, and Internet control innovations. It reviews lessons learned from our experience with pandemic flu viruses. It also presents strategies for developing new high-throughput technologies, including how to address the lack of public funding for critical research undertakings.

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The views expressed in this book are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies.


Suggested Citation

Scott P. Layne, et al. 2001. Firepower in the Lab: Automation in the Fight Against Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

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Publication Info

313 pages |  6 x 9 | 

  • Hardcover:  978-0-309-06849-9
  • Ebook:  978-0-309-17234-9
Chapters skim
Front Matter i-xii
Where the Bucks Stop: A Case for Intermediate-Scale Grants 1-4
Tackling Grand Challenges with Powerful Technologies 5-28
The Application of Mathematical Models in Infectious Disease Research 29-46
Expanding the Worldwide Influenza Surveillance System and Improving the Selection of Strains for Vaccines 47-54
Addressing Emerging Infectious Diseases, Food Safety, and Bioterrorism: Common Themes 55-60
Laboratory Firepower for AIDS Research 61-84
Input/Output of High-Throughput Biology: Experience of the National Canter for Biotechnology Information 85-92
Applications of Modern Technology to Emerging Viral Infections and Vaccine Development 93-100
Next Steps in the Global Surveillance for Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance 101-112
Antibiotic Discovery by Microarray-Based Gene Response Profiling 113-122
Sequencing Influenza A from the 1918 Pandemic, Investigating Its Virulence, and Averting Futeure Outbreaks 123-130
Ensuring safe Food: An Organizational Perspective 131-142
Foodborne Pathogen and Toxin Diagnostics: Current Methods and Needs Assessment from Surveillance, Outbreak Response, and Bioterrorism Preparedness Perspectives 143-164
Food Safety: Data Needs for Risk Assessment 165-174
Biological Weapons: Past, Present, and Future 175-186
National Innovation to Combat Catastrophic Terrorism 187-192
Flow Cytometry Analysis Techniques for High-Throughput Biodefense Research 193-202
Forensic Perspective on Bioterrorism and the Proliferation of Bioweapons 203-214
Biological Warfare Scenarios 215-224
Integration of New Technologies in the Future of the Biological Sciences 225-242
New Standards and Approaches for Integrating Instruments into Laboratory Automation Systems 243-260
High-Throughput Sequencing, Information Generation, and the Future of Biology 261-266
Summary and Next Steps 267-268
Appendix A: Contributors 269-276
Appendix B: Automation in Threat Reduction and Infectious Disease Research: Needs and New Directions (agenda of the April 1999 Colloquium) 277-282
Index 283-299

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