When an accident or an emergency such as a toxic spill or a building fire occurs, first responders arrive to help people at the scene.
One type of emergency involves threats from biological agents such as bacterial or viral pathogens. First responders who train for these kinds of emergencies need to do so safely and carefully. To help address their training needs, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a reference material based on yeast cells.
“Suspicious powder incidents occur regularly throughout the U.S., so first responders need routine training including simulated biothreat scenarios,” explains NIST researcher Sandra Da Silva.
“There was a need to make this training accessible while also avoiding exposure to a real pathogen. With support from the Department of Homeland Security, we came up with this yeast reference material to support local training in a safe manner.”
Biothreats vary by severity and fall into three categories: A, B, or C.
Category A includes biological agents that could pose a national security risk or deliberately be released to harm people, animals, plants, or other living organisms. Anthrax, for example, is a serious infectious disease caused by bacteria naturally found in soil.
Categories B and C include biological threats that are less severe but still harmful.
For all these biological agents, it can be a challenge to prepare in advance and train for an outbreak, and the use of a biothreat material could pose a risk to the first responders involved and the surrounding community.
Instead of using the actual pathogen, responders have the option of using NIST Reference Material (RM) 8230, the new surrogate material developed by NIST researchers.
Researchers based the material on baker’s yeast because it is harmless and living biological material.
“First responders could choose to take a biothreat agent and inactivate it, so it doesn’t grow or cause disease,” added NIST researcher Nancy Lin.
“But it could still be unsettling for the public when they hear that a training exercise in their local area is using anthrax or smallpox, even if you try to explain that it has been inactivated and you’re using it safely.
“Using a nonharmful material such as baker’s yeast, which is used to make bread, can avoid this situation.”
In addition, the use of actual biothreat agents during training has the potential to leave residual material on equipment, which can then cause a false positive in a real response situation. If some yeast cells remain, they will not trigger a positive response in the biothreat detection assay.
But detecting baker’s yeast is not a complete cakewalk. In multiple ways, yeast provides a challenge to technologies that detect genetic material similar to biothreat agents, which is what makes it a good surrogate.
“Baker’s yeast has a thick wall that is hard to crack open to extract DNA, similar to Bacillus anthracis spores (which cause anthrax),” said Da Silva. We needed something to challenge DNA extraction methods, and the idea of using yeast came from previous efforts on extracting DNA from yeast cells.”
The yeast reference material is modified with genomic sequences from a deep ocean organism called Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, which is a type of “extremophile,” meaning it’s found in extremely harsh temperature and high-pressure conditions, specifically in hydrothermal vents at the ocean’s bottom.
The genomic sequence was taken from NIST SRM 2374, DNA Sequence Library for External RNA Controls, which contains a series of nucleic acid sequences from the NIST-hosted External RNA Controls Consortium.
The modified yeast strain is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae NE095, and this sequence was chosen because it allows for specific detection of the yeast using nucleic acid detection technologies; meaning first responders can detect this strain of yeast during training exercises without worrying about obtaining a false positive from other yeast found in the environment.
A unit of RM 8230 consists of 12 vials of the yeast cells plus four vials of the matrix without cells. The yeast has been freeze-dried, or lyophilized, to preserve the cells.
“The yeast is alive and surrounded by other materials to protect it during the freezing and drying processes,” said Da Silva. The four matrix-only vials contain those materials as a control. Once the yeast cells are analyzed, they’re best used to set the baseline for whichever method researchers are using to quantify or detect cells.”
NIST researchers conducted interlaboratory studies with first responders and public health laboratories to assess the versatility of the yeast in existing field protocols. In one study, they demonstrated that the material could be crushed into a powder and inserted into a typical workflow, where it remained viable and detectable using field protocols and technologies.
One field exercise demonstrated how the dried yeast material can be rehydrated and applied to surfaces. Those surfaces were swabbed by first responders as part of the field response, and the yeast cells were successfully detected in both mobile labs and public health laboratories.
The reference material is not only useful to the biothreat preparedness community. For instance, these yeast cells can be used to verify the performance of microbial cell counting and nucleic acid detection technologies and workflows. This is relevant to the use of microbes as medicines and for the study of microbes in the body (the microbiome).
To support this work, NIST quantifies the yeast cells using multiple measurement methods including flow cytometry, which detects and measures the physical and chemical characteristics of cell populations.
“Microbes are increasingly recognized as critical contributors in many areas of our everyday life, from the environment and climate to human and animal health, agriculture, and energy,” said Lin.
“The ability to count and characterize microbes is becoming increasingly important as users seek to understand and harness microbial capabilities. We need a control material to increase confidence in microbial quantification for these types of applications.”
“Though first responders are the initial community of users, the reference material is applicable for a broader community.”
NIST researchers are building on the lessons learned with the yeast reference material and applying them to bacterial species, specifically in developing potential bacterial cell reference materials. Bacterial cells are typically smaller than yeast cells and more diverse in their shape and tendency to aggregate, so they present new measurement challenges.
The new reference material, Saccharomyces cerevisiae NE095 for Cell Counting and DNA-based Detection (NIST RM 8230), is now available, and organizations wishing to purchase it can visit the NIST RM webpage.
The National Institute of Standards and Technologypromotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology to enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.
DHS Science & Technology Takes Top Honors at 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards
American Security Today’s Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program, and now entering it’s Eighth Year, continues to recognize industry leaders of Physical and Border Security, Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness – Management and Response, Law Enforcement, First Responders, as well as federal, state and municipal government agencies in the acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to Keep our Nation Secure.
DHS Science & Technology (S&T) (First of Five)
The real-time detection of concealed threats is critical for protecting public transportation, sports arenas, and other open, difficult-to-secure environments.
New sensing technologies, such as standoff active-RF imaging, can help security personnel screen customers and bags quickly without affecting the flow of traffic. However, accurately detecting threats in the complex environment of crowds carrying everyday items remains a challenge.
The HIVE (Hierarchical Inference for Volumetric Estimation) is a custom deep convolutional neural network architecture that interprets volumetric video generated by standoff, active-RF imagers, for standoff concealed threat detection to enable new approaches to protect people and infrastructure in areas where traditional security checkpoints are not feasible.
DHS Science & Technology (S&T) (Second of Five)
Technologically Speaking is a new podcast series that delivers insightful, thought-provoking, and unscripted conversations about timely national security challenges and the scientific solutions S&T is developing to tackle them. We even sprinkle in some behind-the-scenes stories, personal anecdotes, little-known facts, and technology tidbits so you can get to know S&T, and its people, a little better.
These casual conversations are unlike anything S&T has done before, but innovation is in their DNA.
To learn more, and access Season One of the S&T Technologically Speaking Podcasts, go to www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/technologically-speaking-podcast-season-one to listen in on everything from S&T experts on the untapped potential of bomb techs, how S&T tackles food defense, to the complexities and imperfections of how technology recognizes faces.
DHS Science & Technology (S&T), in Collaboration with the Coast Guard(Third of Five)
One hundred and ten years after the RMS Titanic’s tragic collision with an iceberg, DHS S&T is developing new technology to help the U.S. Coast Guard improve maritime safety and navigation in the North Atlantic Ocean.
When complete, Project Titanic will fuse satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery with ship reporting systems to detect, identify, and report iceberg locations to the maritime community.
DHS Science & Technology (S&T), in Collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (Fourth of Five)
In October of 2022, DHS S&T released a report of operational approaches to protect the National Public Warning System from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
“Electromagnetic pulses, whether caused by an intentional EMP attack or a naturally occurring geomagnetic disturbance from severe space weather, could disrupt critical infrastructures such as the electrical grid, communications equipment, water, and wastewater systems, and transportation modes,” explained Brent Talbot at the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon.
“This could impact millions of people over large parts of the country. It is critical to protect against the potential damage an EMP event could cause.”
The report, a collaborative effort between the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program, and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), also recognized in the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program, summarizes recommendations that federal, state, local agencies, and private sector critical infrastructure owners and operators can employ to protect against the effects of an EMP event.
DHS Science & Technology (S&T) (Fifth of Five)
It takes a special kind of person to be a bomb technician—someone who is brave, disciplined, determined, levelheaded, and creative.
Operators must effectively employ critical thinking and problem-solving skills while working in stressful, potentially life-threatening situations. As a result, bomb technicians’ ability to expect the unexpected and adjust accordingly has created a consistent pipeline of do-it-yourself (DIY) inventions to solve everyday issues they face, and the DHS S&T works to validate and distribute these new capabilities.
“We have direct communication with state and local bomb squads across the country through S&T’s First Responder Resource Group (FRRG),” explained REDOPS Program Manager Byung Hee Kim at the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon.
REDOPS also participates in the U.S. Army-funded Raven’s Challenge exercise series, U.S. Bomb Technicians Association events, National Tactical Officers Association events, and other state and local exercises to identify user innovations.
*DHS S&T has now been recognized with Multiple Awards for Six Consecutive Years in the Annual ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Programs.
Additional Recipients Include:
“One of our core missions at DHS S&T is to prevent terrorism and enhance security,” explains Program Manager Dr. Don Bansleben, of the DHS S&T Office of Mission and Capability Support at the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Luncheon.
“A crucial goal is to rapidly identify and respond to an event involving chemical and biological weapons and minimize the impact to the public and critical infrastructure.”
DHS S&T establishes projects to address these challenges, as well as opportunities for technology developers to test and evaluate their technologies in real-world settings and urban transportation environments.
Homeland Security remains at the forefront of our national conversation as we experience an immigration crisis along our southern border and crime rates that are dramatically higher than before the Pandemic across the United States.
These challenges have become a national priority with an influx of investments in innovative new technologies and systems.
Enter American Security Today, the #1 publication and media platform in the Government Security and Homeland Security fields, with a circulation of over 75,000 readers and many tens of thousands more who visit our AST website at www.americansecuritytoday.com each month.
The pinnacle of the Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program is the Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards Ceremony Luncheon Banquet, an exclusive, full-course plated meal event, in the heart of New York City.
This year’s exclusive sold-out ‘ASTORS’ luncheon featured representatives of law enforcement, public safety, and industry leaders who came together to honor the selfless service of those who stand on the front lines, and those who stand beside them – providing the capabilities and technologies to create a safer world for generations to come.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which came out in force, to discuss comprehensive collaborations between private and public sectors that have led to the development of intelligence and technologies which serve to protect our nation.
The continually evolving ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program emphasized the trail of Accomplished Women in Leadership in 2022, as well as the Significance and Positive Impact of Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in our Next Generation of Government and Industry Leaders.
The keynote address was provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner (DEAC) Diane Sabatino, who described the changes to CBP through the tragedy of 9/11 and the relentless commitment to its mission and ongoing investment in the latest technologies and innovations to protect our borders and Homeland.
The resounding theme of the DEAC’s remarks was her pride in the women and men of the CBP and their families who support them.
AST was also joined by Legendary Police Commissioner William Bratton, who spoke, as always, about his love for the City of New York, the Profession of law enforcement to which he has dedicated his life, and for which he continues to drive thought leadership and innovation.
New York City Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Department Kenneth Corey, came out to address Luncheon attendees and shared some of his experiences and the changes in policing he’s witnessed over his more than three decades of service.
FDNY Chief Joseph Jardin honored the men and women of the FDNY, not only those who currently serve but all of those who have selflessly served, with a special recognition of those lost on 9/11.
Chief Jardin spoke about the continuing health battle of many following 9/11 with cancer and respiratory disease, yet now knowing the full consequences, would not have made a different decision to respond.
As Chief Jardin noted, mission-driven service is in the lifeblood of every firefighter, volunteer and sworn and has been so throughout the history of the Fire Service.
Former head of the FBI’s active shooter program, Katherine Schweit joined AST to sign complimentary copies of her book, ‘STOP THE KILLING: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis,’ thanks to the generosity of our 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Sponsors.
The 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program was Proudly Sponsored by NEC National Security Systems (NSS), ATI Systems, Automatic Systems of America, guardDog AI, Fortior Solutions, IPVideo Corporation, Rajant Corporation, RX Global, and SIMS Software!
We were pleased to welcome the esteemed New York City Fire Department(FDNY); the New York City Police Department(NYPD); and the NYC Hospital Police, as well as Executive Management from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency(CISA), and many other DHS agencies, Federal law enforcement agencies, and private/public partnerships such as the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), the 30×30 Initiative, a coalition of professionals advancing the representation of women in policing; and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) (rail safety advocates).
The prestigious Annual ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program highlights the most cutting-edge and forward-thinking security solutions coming onto the market today, to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay ahead of the competition and keep our Nation safe – one facility, street, and city at a time.
In 2022 over 240 distinguished guests representing Federal, State, and Local Governments, and Industry Leading Corporate Firms gathered from across North America, Europe, and the Middle East to be honored among their peers in their respective fields.
Each year, to keep our communities safe and secure, security dealers, installers, integrators, and consultants, along with corporate, government, and law enforcement/first responder practitioners, convene in New York City to network, learn and evaluate the latest technologies and solutions from premier exhibiting brands at ISC East, the Natural Disaster & Emergency Management Expo (NDEM EXPO), and the ASIS NYC Expo.
ISC East is the Northeast’s leading security & public safety event, hosted in collaboration with sponsor Security Industry Association (SIA) and in partnership with ASIS NYC.
Corporate firms, the majority of which return year to year to build upon their Legacy of Wins, include:
Advanced Detection Technologies, AMAROK, ATI Systems, Axis Communications, Automatic Systems, BriefCam, Canon U.S.A., Cellbusters, CornellCookson, CyberArkFortior Solutions, guardDog.ai, Hanwha Techwin of America, High Rise Escape Systems, IPVideo Corporation, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, NEC National Security Systems, NICE Public Safety, OnSolve, PureTech Systems, Quantum Corporation, Rave Mobile Safety, Regroup Mass Notification, Robotic Assistance Devices, Rajant Corporation, SafeLogic, Select Engineering Services LLC, Singlewire Software, SolarWinds Worldwide, Teledyne FLIR, Valor Systems, and West Virginia American Access Control Systems, just to name a few!
Why American Security Today?
The traditional security marketplace has long been covered by a host of publications putting forward the old-school basics to what is Today – a fast-changing security landscape.
American Security Today is uniquely focused on the broader Homeland Security & Public Safety marketplace with over 75,000 readers at the Federal, State, and local levels of government as well as firms allied to the government.
American Security Today brings forward a fresh compelling look and read with our customized digital publications that hold readers’ eyes throughout the story with cutting-edge editorial that provides solutions to their challenges.
Harness the Power of the Web – with our 100% Mobile Friendly Publications
AST Digital Publications are distributed to over 75,000 qualified government and homeland security professionals, in federal, state, local, and private security sectors.
‘PROTECTING OUR NATION, ONE CITY AT A TIME’
AST Reaches both Private & Public Experts, essential to meeting these new challenges.
Today’s new generation of public safety and security experts need real-time knowledge to deal with domestic and international terrorism, lone wolf attacks, unprecedented urban violence, shifts in society, culture, and media bias – making it increasingly difficult for Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, First Responders, Military and Private Security Professionals to implement coordinated security measures to ensure national security and improve public safety.
These experts are from Government at the federal, state, and local levels as well as from private firms allied to the government.
AST provides a full plate of topics in our AST Monthly Magazine Editions, AST Website, and AST Daily News Alerts, covering 23 Vital Sectors such as Access Control, Perimeter Protection, Video Surveillance/Analytics, Airport Security, Border Security, CBRNE Detection, Border Security, Ports, Cybersecurity, Networking Security, Encryption, Law Enforcement, First Responders, Campus Security, Security Services, Corporate Facilities, and Emergency Response among others.
AST has Expanded readership into integral Critical Infrastructure audiences such as Protection of Nuclear Facilities, Water Plants & Dams, Bridges & Tunnels, and other potential targets of terrorism.
Other areas of concern include Transportation Hubs, Public Assemblies, Government Facilities, Sporting & Concert Stadiums, our Nation’s Schools & Universities, and Commercial Business Destinations – all enticing targets due to the large number of persons and resources clustered together.
To learn more about ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Award Winners solutions, Be On the LookOut for the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS Edition Fully Interactive Magazine – the Best Products of 2022 ‘A Year in Review’.
The Annual CHAMPIONS edition includes a review of ‘ASTORS’ Award Winning products and programs, highlighting key details on many of the winning firm’s products and services, including video interviews and more.
It will serve as your Go-To Source throughout the year for ‘The Best of 2022 Products and Services’ endorsed by American Security Today, and can satisfy your agency’s and/or organization’s most pressing Homeland Security and Public Safety needs.
From Physical Security (Access Control, Critical Infrastructure, Perimeter Protection, and Video Surveillance Cameras and Video Management Systems), to IT Security (Cybersecurity, Encryption, Data Storage, Anti-Malware, and Networking Security – to name a few), the 2021 ‘ASTORS’ CHAMPIONS EDITION will have what you need to Detect, Delay, Respond to, and Mitigate today’s real-time threats in our constantly evolving security landscape.
It will also include featured guest editorial pieces from some of the security industry’s most respected leaders, and recognized firms in the 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program.
To view a complete list of 2022 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winners begin here.
For more information on All Things American Security Today, as well as the 2023 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program, please contact Michael Madsen, AST Publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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