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India Investing in Anti-WMD Technology Efforts

The Indian government is spending more than $56 million to prepare equipment that can be used to uncover, identify and defend against weapons of mass destruction, The Hindu newspaper reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Nov. 23, 2010).

Researchers at 10 Indian scientific institutions are at work developing technologies for use against radiological, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, said Indian Defense Research and Development Establishment Director M.P. Kaushik, whose institution is involved in the effort.

A biological attack by terrorists is the top WMD danger facing India, Kaushik told participants at a conference on preparing for a disease-based incident. He urged that more resources be devoted to dealing with the threat.

Indian National Disaster Management Authority Vice Chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy also emphasized the importance of readying the populous state to withstand an attack with weaponized pathogens. He called on New Delhi to closely review the advice prepared by his agency on responding to WMD attacks (Y. Mallikarjun, The Hindu, Dec. 13).

Meanwhile, a new state-of-the-art $6.5 million biodefense laboratory in Mumbai last week was approved to begin researching highly dangerous disease agents, the Hindustan Times reported (see GSN, Aug. 3).

The Biosafety Level 3 facility at the Haffkine Institute will study airborne highly virulent pathogens such as bird flu and swine flu.

"The first of its kind in the city, the laboratory has enhanced our diagnostic capabilities," Haffkine Institute Director Abhay Chowdhary said. "We will be able to handle more dangerous organisms, especially those which are airborne in a controlled environment."

The director said the high-security laboratory had an internal air filtration system that would prevent disease agents from escaping into the outside environment.

While the Haffkine Institute already operates a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory, the facility's ability to conduct needed research into swine flu was restricted, Chowdhary said.

"We had taken all of the safety precautions then to conduct molecular testing of the virus. But we could handle only known organisms whose disease-causing ability and control measures were available," he said (Sonal Shukla, Hindustan Times, Dec. 12).


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