Andrew Kilianski, an adjunct professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government’s biodefense graduate program, is among the newly appointed experts leading the Department of Defense’s contribution to Operation Warp Speed.
Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership intended to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for use against COVID-19.
Kilianski was appointed as the subject matter expert in “security and assistance” for this fast-moving Manhattan Project-style of initiative. His role, presumably, will relate to defending vaccine researchers and pharmaceutical firms against cyberespionage threats. U.S. and British cybersecurity agencies have issued multiple warnings about attempts by countries such as China and Iran to hack universities and private firms in order to steal intellectual property related to research on COVID-19 medical countermeasures.
According to Gregory Koblentz, director of the biodefense graduate program, “Strengthening cyberbiosecurity is a vital element of our national effort to develop new vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19. Kilianski’s appointment is a perfect illustration of how the biodefense program tries to bridge the gap between science and policy.”
Kilianski has been teaching courses on viral threat agents and biosurveillance for the biodefense program since 2016. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced George Mason University and universities around the country to shift to online teaching, Kilianski was already in the middle of teaching his virology course online. The biodefense graduate program rotates all of its courses online and in-person, enabling students anywhere in the world to complete the entire master’s degree online.
The flexibility offered by online courses is not only good for students, but also allowed Kilianski to continue teaching even while he faced increased demands at work for his expertise. When classes resume in the fall, Koblentz noted, “Kilianski will be able to bring unique insights back into the classroom. Not everyone gets a professor with that kind of experience.”
Since 2019, Kilianski has served as the Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) for Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Radiological (CBRN) Defense for the Department of Defense. His previous work at DOD encompassed weapons of mass destruction, infectious diseases, and emerging biotechnology. Prior to joining DOD, Kilianski was a National Academy of Sciences fellow with the U.S. Army at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, where he conducted cutting-edge research on integrated biosurveillance and the identification and characterization of novel agents that threaten warfighters.
Kilianski earned his PhD in microbiology and immunology from Loyola University Medical Center where he specialized in the study of coronaviruses. His scientific research has been published in an array of notable journals such as PLoS Pathogens, Journal of Virology, and Emerging Infectious Diseases. His research includes the discovery of virus-host interactions necessary for coronavirus pathogenesis and research on vaccines and antiviral agents against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses.