Chemical and Biological Weapons Control

The research group on Chemical and Biological Weapons Control focuses on the role of scientific and technological (S&T) developments in biology, biotechnology, and chemistry in the non-proliferation and disarmament of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) as well as in enhancing chemical and biological security. Biology and chemistry have been advancing at an ever-increasing pace, supported in part by Artificial Intelligence and Additive Manufacturing, producing a number of innovations and developments for legitimate, beneficial and important objectives, including the treatment, prevention, and detection of diseases, and for industrial applications. 

From an arms control, peace research and security perspective, however, some of these developments must be considered ambivalent. Some research activities and experiments, although designed for legitimate purposes, can still harbor significant risks if they are misused for the purpose of weaponization or handled unsafely. This concerns, for instance, some of what is known as “gain-of-function” research on pathogens and high-throughput screening for toxicity in novel chemical compounds, to highlight two particularly well publicized examples. Moreover, some S&T developments might one day be used directly to facilitate the development or covert acquisition of CBW. At the same time, S&T advances can also be helpful in strengthening the non-proliferation and disarmament of CBW and thus help maintain the existing international legal prohibitions against these weapons.

Based on natural science expertise and an interdisciplinary perspective, the research group will scrutinize these ambivalences and aims to develop realistic assessments of concrete risks and opportunities arising from S&T advances in selected areas of chemistry and biology as well as from the continuing convergence of the two sciences, and from developments in other disciplines such as Artificial Intelligence and Additive Manufacturing. Hence, the main research objectives of the group are:

  • Tracking and analysis of relevant S&T developments
  • Assessment of the potential for misuse of selected experiments and applications
  • Strategies to counter disinformation related to CBW
  • Assessment of opportunities to strengthen CBW control efforts, including:
    • the verification of compliance with existing legal obligations
    • the detection and identification of substances
    • the exploration of reactivities of new substances of unknown risk potential
    • the identification and investigation of possible CBW attacks
Una Jakob

Dr. Una Jakob
Head of Research Group

Peter R. Schreiner

Prof. Dr. Peter R. Schreiner, PhD
Head of Research Group

Kadri Reis

Dr. Kadri Reis


Dr. Una Jakob

Head of Research Group

Project partners