Bioscience: Bioenergy, Biosecurity, and Health
Los Alamos scientists used genetic engineering to develop magnetic algae, thus making it much easier to harvest for biofuel production. Harvesting algae accounts for approximately 15–20 percent of the total cost of biofuel production—magnetic algae can reduce such costs by more than 90%.
Los Alamos scientists are developing science and technology to improve pathogen detection, create better therapeutics, and anticipate—even prevent—epidemics and pandemics. The source of these pathogens can be natural (for example, a mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus) or manmade (for example, the 2001 Anthrax letters). LANL contributions to this area of research include understanding the host-pathogen relationship, creating better detection platforms, modeling disease progression, and developing strategies for more effective drugs.
- Bioengineering, Protein Design, Structure and Function POC: Geoff Waldo
- Bioinformatics and Analytics POC: Patrick Chain
- Biosurveillance POC: Basil Swanson
- Biophysics POC: Jim Werner
- Computational Modeling POC: Ben McMahon
- Genome Technologies POC: Tracy Erkkila
- Epidemiology POC: Sara Y. Del Valle
- Molecular Recognition and Design POC: Andrew Bradbury
- Pathogen Science POC: Elizabeth Hong-Geller
- Pathogen Databases POC: Ben McMahon
Regardless of the origin—natural or man-made—limiting the impact of disease requires rapid identification of disease and an effective, targeted response. LANL scientists are contributing to this effort in many areas, including:
- Understanding the molecular mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions.
- Discovering new biomarkers of disease.
- Developing effective recognition molecules for detection reagents—both RNA and protein
- Developing effective vaccines and therapeutics.
- Designing advanced diagnostic assays and biosensors for rapid detection of disease
- Analyzing and engineering biomolecules for drug development
- Understanding and countering changes in the environment that facilitate disease in humans and animals.
- Modeling disease progression and testing possible countermeasures to prevent epidemics.
- Recognizing potential downstream problems such as social unrest caused by biologically driven natural or manmade disasters (such as the destruction of a nation’s agriculture).
Biological research at Los Alamos dates from its very early days, when the Atomic Energy Commission during the 1940s established health research units in wartime laboratories to investigate the effects of radiation on living organisms.
More than 70 years later, bioscience research at Los Alamos is a unique, interdisciplinary endeavor that involves more than 400 scientists from several technical divisions throughout the Laboratory.
Today, scientists at Los Alamos integrate experiment, theory, and computational biology and bioinformatics to address global security challenges in health, energy, and the environment.