Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response
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Examining the threats of our time...locally, regionally, and globally.

ISTAR Research

 

Current Research

The International Compact for Infectious Diseases

As part of a groundbreaking effort to increase the scope, efficacy and sustainability of current projects aimed at reducing the global health burden caused by infectious diseases, ISTAR has put forward the International Compact for Infectious Diseases. The Compact is a mechanism for the coordination of public, private, academic and philanthropic partners which will allow the expansion of knowledge and funding for infectious diseases research and development. The ultimate goal is to promote the development of new pharmaceuticals by reducing market barriers to entry and harmonizing regulatory practices across the board. For more on the methods, goals and successes of this project, please see our Compact website. Furthering these goals, ISTAR has recently been awarded a $17.8 million Department of Defense contract for antibiotic countermeasures and also a NATO Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) grant to hold an international workshop on the Compact for Infectious Diseases.

 

Cyber-physical Systems

The National Science Foundation is taking the lead on a new research program called Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and members of ISTAR from the School of Medicine and Engineering are playing important roles in setting the agenda of this program.  The 2007 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report Leadership Under Challenge: Information Technology R&D in a Competitive World states:  “Networking, and information technology (NIT) systems connected with the physical world – also called embedded, engineered, or cyber-physical systems – are essential to the effective operation of U.S. defense and intelligence systems and critical infrastructures (e.g. air traffic-control, power-grid, and water-supply systems).  Cyber-physical systems are also at the core of human-scale structures such as vehicles and clinical and home health-care devices as well as large-scale civilian applications such as environmental monitoring, industrial process control, and ground transportation management.”  The NSF announcement for the CPS initiative seeks new scientific foundations and technologies to enable the rapid and reliable development and integration of computer and information centric physical and engineered systems.  The goal of the initiative is to usher in a new generation of engineered systems that are highly dependable, efficiently produced, and capable of advanced performance in information, computation, communication, and control.  Collaborations between industry and academia will be encouraged, including, inter alia, partnerships with the aerospace, automotive, energy and healthcare sectors.

 

Research Goals

ISTAR remains committed to studying strategic threats in the context of a multidisciplinary institute is a valid academic enterprise. We recognize that the challenge is to develop research and academic programs that maintain the rigor of traditional studies while benefitting from the varied perspectives and backgrounds that can only come in an interdisciplinary setting.

Areas included in this research are:

 

A. Human and Veterinary Infectious Diseases

Develop a program on zoonotic infections that is relevant to the emerging biodefense initiatives.

  1. Builds on the expertise in the School of Medicine , Engineering, and Veterinary Medicine, but does not simply replicate ongoing projects and programs.
  2. Will enhance these programs and projects by expanding the range of pathogens under investigation by our faculty. We can focus on the common need for containment facilities, on the recruitment of new faculty and on the administrative aspects of these programs as described in the Biodefense and Infectious Disease Working Group Report.
  3. There are a large number of grant opportunities for which Penn will be more competitive.
  4. The biomolecular, epidemiological and pedagogical expertise in emerging infections and biodefense and the proximity of our med school and vet school are unique and internationally recognized. Penn is ideally suited to expand in this domain, which is perhaps one of the most highly visible and certainly one of the most well funded areas in strategic threats.

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B. Behavioral Sciences and Psychology of Terrorism

Develop a comprehensive program on the psychology of terror and responses to terror.

  1. Builds on expertise in the Schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Social Work, Nursing, Annenberg, and Education
  2. Can build new collaborations and strengthen existing links between programs in the above Schools
  3. There are announced and anticipated grant opportunities for which Penn will be more competitive
  4. The behavioral sciences of terror is a new area of investigation and given the current expertise at Penn, we can assemble a powerful and comprehensive program in this area.

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C. Political Philosophy and Legal Aspects of Strategic Security Issues

Develop a program that examines the relationship between the philosophical and political foundations of terror groups and the response to these threats in the context of comparative legal systems.

  1. Builds on expertise in Law, Arts and Sciences and Wharton
  2. Can extend and build new collaborations in research and education across the Schools and Centers.
  3. This domain foundational and could have deep policy and educational impact. Grants have been announced that address these issues.
  4. It seems evident, given the history of our University, and its future direction, that Penn should take a lead position in this arena.

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D. Adaptive computational systems

Develop a program that focuses on the acknowledged strengths of Penn in biologically inspired computation--on methods for making computer systems and networks more resistant to intentional and unintentional attacks and malfunctions.

  1. Builds on expertise in the Schools of Medicine and Engineering.
  2. The program would enhance collaborations between Medicine and Engineering and strengthen new dimensions in computer science.
  3. Based upon the NSF workshop organized and ran by Penn faculty, NSF has allocated significant funding for this area. Similar programs exist in the NIH and DARPA.
  4. This program represents a unique opportunity to establish Penn as an intellectual leader in the field.

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