NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Beating Swords Into Plowshares, Bioweapons Into Antibiotics

November 20, 2001

American businesses are helping convert former Soviet bioweapons research facilities to new, peaceful uses and are employing scientists who might otherwise be recruited to develop weapons of mass destruction for other countries.

  • Under the Initiative for Proliferation Prevention, the U.S. Energy Department provides seed capital, matched by corporate funds, to former Soviet weaponeers with the goal of creating saleable products in commercial ventures.
  • Since 1994 the program has awarded $129 million in seed money, matched by corporate grants, to 88 former Soviet weapons institutes in current-day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
  • It has engaged more than 10,000 of the former USSR's estimated 60,000 weapons program employees in projects with an average duration of three years.
  • Similarly, the International Science and Technology Center sponsored by the U.S., the European Union, Japan and Russia awarded grants of about $62 million for 237 swords-to-plowshares science projects and $24 million for partnerships, with direct grants of almost $27 million to 21,275 scientists.

An American company with a number of projects is Diversa Corp.

  • In Belarus, it reassigned former weaponeers to study the cells of childhood leukemia patients, and former designers of computerized missile guidance systems to create computer-based analytical models of leukemia prognosis.
  • In Golitsino, Russia, Diversa is converting a factory that once made fungal toxins, which contaminate crops and induce illnesses, to a plant that produces enzymes that neutralize those toxins.
  • In Serpukhov, a research center that once tested germ weapons is researching a new class of antimicrobial drugs and hopes to produce rapid detection systems for anthrax contamination.
  • Diversa is also funding a Russian "green chemistry" center to hunt for new products from nature and use natural products to clean up oil spills and pollution

Source: Marilyn Chase, "U.S. Company Is Working to Convert Soviet Bioweapons Plant to Peaceful Use Marketplace," Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2001.

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