Biological Agents

FOI’s research ensures Sweden’s capacity to deal with the threat of biological agents.

Lab work

Our main customers in this area are

  • Sweden’s Ministry of Defence
  • The Swedish Armed Forces
  • The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs
  • The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and other national civil preparedness authorities
  • Various national and international research councils and funds.

Research and activity areas

FOI is primarily engaged in activities involving samples suspected of containing dangerous biological agents. The activity area is part of FOI´s overall capability to manage and analyse samples of suspicious and dangerous CBRNE agents. The focus is on analysis of samples where the suspicious biological agent resides in a complex background of other biological agents and/or abiotic matrices that influence analytical capability. FOI works with the entire chain of forensic analysis, from identification and characterisation of the biological agent to methods for source tracking and attribution. FOI’s research aims to improve this capability through a special focus on differentiating between intentional and natural spread of biological agents.

The research is carried out in cooperation with international and national research groups, and published on a current basis in peer-reviewed international journals. This work and continual monitoring of global developments generates knowledge that makes it possible to assist the government and international fora on disarmament and non-proliferation issues. The activities enhance FOI’s practical capability to support national and international investigations of suspected presence or use of dangerous biological agents. FOI provides expert support and advice to both the concerned authorities, the Swedish Armed Forces, and the government in the event that the antagonistic use of biological agents occurs or is threatened.

The biological threat and verification research area is comprised of three main activity areas:

Operational Support

Gloves holding a delicate sample
  • Biopreparedness - Management of samples of suspicious and dangerous CBRNE agents
  • Biosecurity and biosafety
  • Analysis exercises
  • Analyses of bacteria, viruses and toxins
  • Provide support to the Swedish Armed Forces
  • Provide support to the Swedish Police and international biological crime investigations

Technology Development

test tubes
  • Microbial forensics
  • Source tracking
  • DNA-sequencing technologies
  • Sample-reprocessing methods
  • Monitoring of dual-use technologies
  • Development of bioinformatic analysis workflows

Microbial Risks

  • Environmental fate of microorganisms
  • Model systems for studying microorganisms
  • Expert knowledge of dangerous microorganisms
  • Population genetics and characterisation
  • Provide support on disarmament and nonproliferation issues

CBRNE – Forensic Analytical Science Center

FOI’s CBRNE – Forensic Analytical Science Center is one of Europe’s few security-classed CBRNE laboratories authorised to receive and investigate all dangerous materials using operational routines in cooperation with the Swedish Police. FOI is authorised to manage biological agents of Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3).

International laboratory networks

FOI is an active participant in developing a network of biological laboratories to provide support for investigations into the intentional use of biological weapons, within the frame of the United Nations Secretary General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged use of Chemical and Biological Weapons External link, opens in new window. (UNSGM).

Forum for Biopreparedness Diagnostics (FBD)

The Forum for Biopreparedness Diagnostics is a collaboration between four Swedish authorities – the Public Health Agency of Sweden, the Swedish National Veterinary Institute, the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), and the Swedish Food Agency – for the purpose of enhancing Swedish laboratory preparedness. The authorities are highly complementary; jointly, their areas of responsibility cover a broad range of competence in public health, veterinary medicine, fodder, food (including drinking water) and environmental sampling.

Search for reports from the Forum for Biopreparedness Diagnostics (FBD) External link, opens in new window..

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Last updated: 2021-03-29