NATO will finance an interdisciplinary research project by Technion - Israel Institute of Technology on protecting water supplies against biological and chemical terrorism. This is the first research project of its kind in Israel, and is in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks in the US.
The research will integrate mathematical models for the positioning of monitoring stations and technological innovations for identifying and neutralizing chemical and biological contaminants. The project has a budget of €300,000 and is due to be completed at the end of 2008.
Prof. Israel Schechter of the Faculty of Chemistry said, “After al-Qaida documents and plans were discovered in Afghanistan, the FBI warned that the organization was planning to attack water sources. It turns out that water dispersal systems in the US, Israel, and other developed countries in the world are completely exposed. They are outdoors, with no guards. The systems are large and numerous, and guards cannot be placed at all of them. An expert panel examined the issue and gave its recommendations to Congress, which allocated $608 million to solve the problem.”
Schechter began studying the problem, and found that a chemical terrorist attack on the water supply is very difficult to carry out, because of the large dilution factor. “A huge quantity of poison is needed to poison the water supply,” he says. “I tried to think like a terrorist and discovered a way to place a handful of a certain poison into water sources that could kill large numbers of people, despite the dilution factor. That’s why I started to develop a device that can detect chemical poisons in water and neutralize them.”
In view of the importance of the subject, the Israel Water Commission decided to help fund development together with NATO and the Technion.
Prof. Yechezkel Kashi of the Faculty of Biotechnology Food Engineering works on the rapid detection of pathogens in the water, such as the cholera bacteria, using DNA sequencing. He and his team have identified DNA sequences of pathogens, which demonstrate large variability between bacterium, and they have developed technology based on DNA sequencing to identify them.
Kashi said, “We’ve basically established an ID card for specific bacteria. We’re now developing a scanner that will be able to quickly and accurately detect specific bacteria. We’re collaborating with Prof. David Walt of Tufts University on this project.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on April 19, 2007
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