Biological Defence Research, Land Division, Defence Science and Technology Group

2. Where is it located (include both address and geographical location)?

Location: 506 Lorimer Street Fishermans Bend VIC 3207 AUSTRALIA Postal Address: Chemical and Biological Defence LAND DIVISION 506 Lorimer Street Fishermans Bend VIC 3207 AUSTRALIA
3. Floor area of laboratory areas by containment level
No containment units defined
Total laboratory floor area (SqM)

4. The organizational structure of each facility

(viii) Briefly describe the publication policy of the facility

Publication in scientific journals is encouraged, as it is a mechanism for staff to maintain their professional status.

(ix) Provide a list of publicly-available papers and reports resulting from the work published during the previous 12 months. (To include authors, titles and full references)

Relevant publications are listed in Form C.

5. Briefly describe the biological defence work carried out at the facility, including type(s) of micro-organisms(9) and/or toxins studied, as well as outdoor studies of biological aerosols.

Various types of work are undertaken, as outlined in the following sections:

(1) Detection of biological entities recognised as potential biological warfare agents

Immunological, bacteriophage, mass spectrometry and DNA-based techniques for rapid identification of BWA (Biological Warfare Agents) are being developed/assessed.

Current research focuses on the evaluation of platforms and reagents that enable rapid identification and characterisation of bacterial, viral and toxin agents, including microbial antibiotic resistance and genetically manipulated bacteria.

(2) Development of health monitoring systems for BWA

A virology program aims to detect past or recent exposure of ADF personnel to known or poorly characterised endemic viruses, particular to Australia and the region such as Ross River Virus, Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus, bunya–viruses, rhabdo–viruses, Japanese encephalitis, dengue and filoviruses.

(3) Physical methods for rapid detection of bio-aerosols

Methods of particle characterisation for provision of rapid warning of a bio-aerosol are being assessed.

(4) Protection/Treatment/Toxicology

Neutralization and cytotoxicity assays have been developed to assess the usefulness of potential therapeutic agents such as antibodies and antimicrobial peptides.

Human and mouse lung cells have been used as a test bed for examining potential therapeutic compounds against toxin agents. Compounds for treatment of ricin intoxication are currently being examined.

A program of work developing Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) manufacturing processes for medical counter-measures has been completed with Monash University and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).  National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation of this facility was granted in 2019.

(5) Detection of biological toxins using physico-chemical methods

Studies on detection of biological material using mass spectrometry and other physico-chemical methods are being conducted to determine their utility for field detection of biological toxins and BWC verification procedures.  This work has included the analysis of ricin and crude extracts of ricin by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometry.

(6) Hollow-Fibre Infection model (HFIM) evaluation of therapeutics

DSTG is evaluating the use of the HFIM to predict bacterial responses to current, repurposed or novel therapeutics.  The outcomes of this treatment (which will occur over a period of time) will act as a preliminary screening method to be used before clinical or animal trials.

(7) Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)

A number of BWC/Biosecurity Regional Workshops have been convened and/or supported by Australia since 2005, with scientific and technical support provided by DSTG.  The objectives of these workshops have been to assist BWC States Parties in the Asia-Pacific region to become more engaged in the work of the BWC in Geneva.  In doing so, the workshops reduce the possibility of bioterrorism in the region, and  assists regional states fulfil BWC obligations, including avoiding inadvertently assisting biological weapons programs being developed elsewhere.  This outreach process has also led to regional countries conducting their own specialised workshops on biosafety and biosecurity.  No workshops were conducted in 2020, however DSTG participated in the 2020 OPCW confidence-building exercise for the detection/analysis of ricin in complex samples.

(9) Including viruses and prions.