Federation of American Scientists Case Studies in Dual Use Biological Research Module 2.0: Poliovirus Case Study
Topic: De Novo Synthesis of Poliovirus Subtopic: Proof of Principle

The synthesis of poliovirus was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense before both the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the anthrax letter attacks later that fall. Poliovirus is neither listed as a select agent nor restricted for use by scientists. The research served as a "proof of principle" that a pathogenic virus could be synthesized from scratch.

Since hundreds of vials of poliovirus samples are stored in freezers around the world, the likelihood of terrorists using the techniques outlined by Wimmer to make poliovirus for use as a bioweapon is highly unlikely. Therefore, Wimmer and his colleagues concluded that the experimental demonstration of poliovirus synthesis would not dramatically increase the risk of intentional reintroduction in areas where it had been eradicated.

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Topic History and Biology of Poliovirus De Novo Synthesis of Poliovirus Public Reaction Discussion References Home