Drug detection and delivery technology abused for chemical warfare

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Dual-use research of concern (DURC) refers to useful research that can easily be diverted to harm public health and safety.

AI, ML, and 3D printing technologies can discover and predict a chemical’s suitability for weapon use, produce it at relevant scale, weaponize it optimally, and store it safely. Pharmaceutical aerosol technologies using agricultural spray drones to deliver airborne chemical and biological warfare agents will have devastating consequences.
An article entitled “Dual use of Artificial-Intelligence-powered Drug Discovery” in Nature Machine Intelligence dated March 7, 2022 by Fabio Urbina and a team from Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA, has pointed to existing fears in Alerted in relation to drug discovery Artificial intelligence and machine learning software can be misused to discover novel deadly biochemical weapons that are difficult to detect or track, and for which no known antidotes exist. In this study, they used their commercial de novo molecule generator “MegaSyn” with a modified approach to select rather than discard toxic molecules, particularly those like the neurotoxin VX and Novichok. In less than 6 hours, it generated 40,000 known and unknown nerve agent molecules like VX that reached the desired threshold of nerve toxicity. It is easier to detect highly toxic chemicals than to find an effective and safe therapeutic drug and then optimize its production and administration.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence using electronic neural networks on a powerful computer. This AI ability to learn and solve problems is used for natural language processing, speech recognition, facial recognition such as computer vision and expert systems such as IBM Watson, and to simplify and accelerate drug discovery. IBM Watson was used to provide personalized recommendations to cancer patients. AI is very useful in analyzing big data like in retail: optimization of products, inventory, logistics, etc.
Machine Learning (ML) simulates a human gaining experience by performing repetitive tasks to improve performance and improve outcomes. A drug discovery platform uses AI with ML to study the mode of action of known drug molecules and their active parts to discover more potent drug molecules with desirable effects and no adverse reactions.
Dual-use research of concern (DURC) refers to useful research that can be easily diverted to harm public health and safety, crops and agricultural crops, commercial and other animals, the environment, or national security. It usually relates to life science research such as gain of function research that can be used to create viruses such as Covid-19, but also encompasses other areas such as the discovery of highly toxic chemicals, the development of deadly autonomous weapons and robots, and the use of information technologies such as deep forgeries for misinformation and warfare. Nuclear technology was armed during WWII and space technology is being armed now.
Armed AI, ML and 3D printing enable rogue state and non-state entities such as terrorists and criminals to design tens of thousands of toxic molecules in a matter of hours, as reported by Fabio Urbina and his team in the above-mentioned article. Although a number of chemical warfare agents exist and their development, stockpiling, transfer and use have been banned since World War I with tightened restrictions since 1993, covert research and development continues. AI, ML with drug and chemical discovery software can simplify and accelerate the discovery of highly toxic and difficult-to-trace chemicals with no known antidote or treatment. 3D printing technology can make it easy to secretly synthesize and manufacture the chemical. These technologies can discover and predict a chemical’s suitability for weapon use, produce it at a relevant scale, use it optimally as a weapon, and store it safely. These chemical agents can be administered orally, usually in water or liquids, through the skin, or inhaled as a gas or aerosol. Pharmaceutical aerosol research has helped deliver drugs deep into the lungs of asthma patients. Such technologies, which produce aerosols as small as 2 microns in size when used with agricultural spray drones to deliver airborne chemical and biological warfare agents, will have devastating consequences.
dr PS Venkatesh Rao is Specialist in Endocrine, Thoracic and Laparoscopic Surgery, Bengaluru.

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