The world has changed. For the first time in a century, a massive worldwide pandemic threatens both our lives and our way of life. There can be little doubt that this crisis calls for technological solutions and scientifically informed policies, and the national laboratories of the United States have an essential role to play. The federal government created the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory to coordinate the national laboratories’ efforts and capitalize on their expertise to address everything from pandemic modeling and computing to patient testing, the development of therapeutics, and the manufacture of critical supplies.
Over the past several decades, Los Alamos National Laboratory had the foresight to develop many of the key capabilities the world needs right now. The Laboratory has long been on the forefront of high-performance computing and complex-system modeling, which now provide the basis for predicting the course of the pandemic and virtually screening thousands of potential drug candidates. It has long been on the forefront of genomics as well, which helps reveal the virus’s targetable proteins and track viral mutations across the population. It has long been on the forefront of personal protective equipment and worker safety due to its experience with radioactive and hazardous materials. It has analyzed the motions of gases, droplets, and particulates; developed diagnostics and monitoring systems for biothreats; and even designed a new kind of HIV vaccine, currently undergoing clinical trials, expressly for the purpose of protecting against a fast-evolving virus. Examples of hard-won, pandemic-relevant Los Alamos expertise abound, and the Laboratory was able to quickly redirect these capabilities to the crisis at hand.
In this issue of 1663, we present a subset of the comprehensive array of research Los Alamos scientists are carrying out to protect us all.