Chemical Threat and Effect Assessments

The Division of Chemical Threat and Effect Assessments analyses chemical weapon threats from of governments of concern, terrorists and criminals, as well as mechanisms and effects of biologically active agents from a threat and protection perspective.

Research mainly focuses on:

  1. Mechanism, effects and medical protection
  2. Threat assessment, disarmament and non-proliferation

The work at the division contributes to FOI’s expertise and technical support in CBRN-related matters, nationally and internationally.

To ensure delivery of high-quality results and relevant competence, the division carries out continuous analysis of developments worldwide and works together with the Swedish Armed Forces, public authorities, the private sector, universities and international actors. The Swedish Ministry of Defence represents the largest customer, but there are also commissions from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish Armed Forces, public authorities and the private sector.

Mechanism, effects and medical protection

This area includes research on:

  • The effects of threat agents in biological system
  • The development and effect of medical countermeasures in biological systems
  • Life science methodology and technology development

The research involves nerve agents, tissue-damaging substances, viruses and toxins. By combining current research with new biological effect models, molecular systems thinking and horizon scanning, the aim is to develop a broad range of skills and technical ability to deal with matters concerning current chemical and biological weapons, and medical protection. The research on tissue-damaging substances is partly funded by the National Board of Health and Welfare, which works together with FOI mainly on degradation mechanisms and biomarkers for diagnosing chemical lung damage. The aim is to contribute to the development of effective treatment strategies.

The research area comprises specialist competences in medicinal chemistry, organic synthesis, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, structural biology, cell biology and toxicology.

The research ranges from studies of molecular interaction between small organic compounds and endogenous proteins (e.g. nerve agent binding to acetylcholinesterase) and biological cellular response (e.g. viral infections), to effects on entire organs (e.g. the effects of chemicals on the respiratory tract).

Threat assessment, disarmament and non-proliferation

The dominant tasks in the area of threat assessment focus both on the CBRN threat relating to national chemical and biological weapon programmes and technology development, and on threats from non-state actors. There is also work on threat assessment in situations where the wider threat concerns CBRN matters.

In the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, the work is focused on direct assistance for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in support of Sweden’s involvement in the conventions on chemical weapons and on biological and toxin weapons. The work on disarmament questions is governed by the needs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and is characterised by developments within the respective conventions and the European Union.

A variety of methods

We work using a variety of methods ranging from exercise activities, scenario development and intelligence analysis, to the conduct of studies and workshops. A large part of the work on disarmament and non-proliferation relies on FOI’s broad technical competence and many years’ experience of participation in the work of multilateral organisations.

Event-driven and long-term activities

FOI’s activities in this field are to a certain extent event-driven and characterised both by relatively rapid short-term tasks and by preparatory work prior to planned activities, as well as long-term strategic questions. Examples of FOI’s contributions include providing the Government Offices of Sweden with underlying data relating to threat scenarios, data to support work within the framework of the EU Council working groups, and direct support to the inspection authorities in the context of licence applications relating to Swedish exports.


Last updated: 2023-01-10