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Biological Warfare Detection

Effective Preparation of Biological Samples

A key challenge in improving the performance of biological warfare detection systems is the effective delivery of target molecules to the sensor. Using a technique known as isotachophoresis, APL researchers developed a method that can simultaneously purify and concentrate both nucleic acids and proteins from inhibitors found in complex environmental matrices such as dirt and foods. This is the first demonstration of a technology that could ultimately lead to a universal approach to sample preparation that allows many different biological targets to be isolated and purified from a sample in a single step.

Atmospheric Processing of Biological Agents

Improving detection, decontamination, and biological forensic technologies also requires a better understanding of the changes that affect biological agents after their release into the environment. To this end, it is advantageous to study the atmospheric processes that affect the physical, chemical, and biological properties of airborne microorganisms. APL scientists have developed an octopole electrodynamic balance and environmental control system to allow spectroscopic observation of single biological particles over extended periods of time. Spectroscopic observations of changes in the chemical signature of the particles as they are exposed to different gas phase compounds is expected to provide new insight into the affect of atmospheric processing on the viability and chemical and physical properties of biological aerosols.

Biological Threat Situational Awareness

APL participated in a critical experiment to integrate U.S. biological defense capabilities to provide an effective biological threat situational awareness system for military forces in South Korea. APL initiated and continues to lead an effort to integrate the earliest indicators of a biological threat against the troops, including in situ and standoff sensors, clinical diagnostics, and disease surveillance. APL also led the development and fielding of an automated public health informatics capability in the DoD for early warning and monitoring of potential infectious diseases.

Combating Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device Screening System Assessment

In support of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), APL installed a drive-through Backscatter X-ray Portal on our campus. This system is used at mass transit and maritime facilities to screen 40-foot containers, 53-foot trailers, and large buses for IEDs. Staff assessed technology as well as the readiness and suitability of the Portal for deployment to TSA field demonstration locations. Activities at APL included functional and operational tests, radiation surveys and characterization, system performance, and x-ray image characterization.

Working with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization

APL supported efforts by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to implement a multifaceted program aimed at attacking the enemy IED network. APL performed computational modeling and physical testing and evaluation of threat devices and counter-IED systems. 

U.S. Coast Guard Operational Support

APL's depth of experience on maritime issues, technology development and application, and systems engineering supports the Coast Guard in its missions. This work is built on a foundation of earlier projects utilizing decades of APL maritime expertise within our submarine security programs. APL is assisting the Coast Guard in program efforts to ensure secure, safe, and effective operations in the maritime transportation system, including marine facilities.

The Coast Guard is responsible for escorting maritime vessels deemed high-value assets safely through our waterways. Key to the success of each escort mission are the tactics employed by the escorting vessels. APL successfully modeled current tactics used while protecting these assets and provided an initial set of recommendations for future tactics. APL analyzed the effectiveness of the Response Boat Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Manual for moving security zones. We have also quantitatively analyzed security measures in a broader set of circumstances, including protection of berthed vessels and engagements where defensive measures are mounted on the targeted high-value assets or on aircraft.

Forensic Analysis of Nuclear and Radiological Events

APL has developed and implemented a novel approach to modeling and simulation of the intergovernmental process of conducting forensics analaysis of nuclear and radiological events. Standard analytical computational techniques are combined with business process modeling techniques to provide an effective means of investigating and analyzing alternative technologies. The approach also addresses process improvements to increase the ability of nuclear forensics to enhance the nation's overall ability to respond quickly and effectively to a nuclear or radiological attack.

Public Health Informatics

Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named APL a Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics in 2007. APL's Center is one of only five institutions across the nation funded by the CDC to conduct research that will lead to major scientific advances in public health informatics to support emerging challenges facing public health. Public health informatics is a relatively new field that refers to the science dealing with health information, its structure, acquisition, and use to promote health. APL staff also produced the first comprehensive reference in the field, Disease Surveillance: A Public Health Informatics Approach.

Infectious Disease Modeling Tool for Military Planners

APL deployed the Pandemic Influenza Model, an infectious disease modeling tool for military planners, to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. Public health officals there have used the model for pandemic flu planning and for planning exercises. The long-term goal, as part of the DoD Global Emerging Infectious Surveillance and Response System, is to create a model that can be customized for use at any U.S. military institution.

Sensors and Detection Technologies

We are assisting DHS in its mission to provide technologies for protecting the nation. Even as countermeasures are developed, asymmetric threats will continue to evolve. DHS must focus on threat awareness and prevention. There is a critical challenge to rapidly adapt to changing threats by developing technologies and enhanced capabilities. APL is helping provide end-users with technologies and capabilities to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, means of terrorism, and other illegal activities.

In addition, DoD has a critical need for chemical and biological contamination avoidance and improved passive defense capabilities, especially to support warfighters in the field. APL has been working in this area for more than 15 years, bringing significant expertise that the government requires. We are continuing to develop technology and applications expertise that end-users need to respond to the changing threat environment.