Science Policy Research With advanced degrees in microbiology, virology, biomedical sciences and biochemistry, and years of experience in high tech fields such as bioengineering, nanotechnology and biological detection systems, our staff members have the background and are committed to using their science capabilities to address critical problems of science policy.
Reviewing Advances in Microbiology
For the Institute for Defense Analyses, Gryphon Scientific performed meta-analysis on the existing data to predict the presence of pathogens in various medical samples as a function of the time course of infection. This report was produced in support of the development of next-generation diagnostic devices. Our staff performed an evaluation of the emerging field of prion science for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Advanced Systems and Concepts Office. In this study, we summarized the current state of knowledge in the field and identified promising lines of research to direct funding in the areas of diagnosis, prophylaxis and treatment of prion-related diseases (mad cow disease, scrapie, chronic wasting disease, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease). For the National Science Foundation, we studied the field of tissue research to help them understand the dynamics of nucleating a new field of research.
Defining the Smallpox Virus
For the department of Homeland Security, Gryphon performed a bioinformatic study of the smallpox virus genome to determine if the legal definition of the pathogen was overly broad. We performed a gene by gene analysis of the smallpox genome and its near neighbors in the orthopoxvirus family to determine what level of identity and similarity could be used as a threshold to distinguish the virus from closely related viruses. We also investigated the genetic diversity found in smallpox virus across over 50 strains sequenced so far. At the project’s conclusion, Gryphon proposed candidate definitions that could be used to describe smallpox virus (including its natural and engineered variants) yet exclude its very similar near neighbors (like vaccinia virus, cowpox, and taterapox).
Studies in Environmental Microbiology
For MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Gryphon performed two studies related to environmental microbiology. In the first study, we reviewed the scientific literature on the microbiological content of air in urban, rural, and suburban areas, both indoors and outdoors. From the data gathered in this review, Gryphon was able to develop guidelines on expected bacterial load in air for use by developers of biodefense systems. In the second study, Gryphon examined the microbiological literature for data on the decay of microorganisms in air. From these data, Gryphon developed guidelines for decay rates for microbes as a function of humidity, temperature, formulation, and UV intensity.
Guiding Preparedness Policy
Gryphon staff serves on the Rad/Nuke Integrated Project Team to help DHHS develop triage protocols in the aftermath of nuclear incidents and to efficiently acquire and deploy the medical countermeasures needed to respond to incidents with radioisotopes, nuclear accidents, and nuclear weapons. Gryphon staff supported the drafting of the Botulinum Toxin Playbook to guide ConOps for DHHS in the aftermath of a contamination event. Gryphon staff also performed research and modeling to help guide the decisions of the Blood and Tissue Working Group of DHHS to identify the tissue and blood banking needs of the US in the aftermath of a variety of incidents. Additionally, we have developed scenario injects for use at national political party conventions as well as the presidential inauguration. These scenarios draw heavily on data in the medical and engineering literature to ensure that the source terms, attack footprint and consequences are realistic and based on the best available data.
Evaluating Risk-Reduction Measures in the Nucleic Acid Synthesis Industry
Gryphon performed an in-depth study of the synthetic biology industry for the Office of Policy of the Department of Homeland Security. In this project, we developed a system for the screening of biological reagents to prevent hostile actors synthesizing dangerous viruses without fettering legitimate research. A key component of this study is to evaluate bioinformatic tools to help identify orders for biologicals that may pose a biosecurity risk. Our deep understanding of biotechnology enabled us to focus only on the technologies that materially contribute to the risk.
Evaluating Oversight Mechanisms for the Gene and Oligonucleotide Industry
For the Department of Homeland Security, Gryphon Scientific provided a detailed overview of the custom oligonucleotide and synthetic gene industries through a systematic review of the literature and interviews with stakeholders including industry leaders, minor players in the industry, and end-users. The purpose of this study was to provide policy makers with the background of how oligonucleotides and synthetic genes can be used to construct whole genomes and provide them with information that will be used to develop guidelines for regulation of the industry.
Evaluating Sufficiency of Existing Regulations for Synthetic Biology
For MIT, Gryphon Scientific completed an evaluation of the regulations governing synthetic biology research for the purpose of educating researchers in the area of synthetic biology. Additionally, the review tackled the real world applicability of these regulations, the penalties for non-compliance and identified gaps in regulation. This project demonstrates that our team has the ability to understand not only the scientific aspects of a topic, but also the regulations, policies and guidance that govern that topic.
Reviewing the Nanotechnology Economy
For the White House Office of Science and Technology policy, our staff performed two assessments of nanotechnology. In the first, we helped evaluate estimates of the size of the “nanotechnology economy” by several experts. For this analysis, we evaluated the role that nanotechnology could play in a variety of economic sectors to develop an upper and lower bound for economic contribution and then compared these boundaries to proven economic estimates for other pervasive technologies (such as the laser). For the same client, our staff also helped evaluate the potential environmental impact of the expansion of the nanotechnology industry.