Today's D Brief: Army’s do-it-all vaccine; New Russia sanctions?; Libyan election uncertainty; Space-based solar power; And a bit more.
A new U.S. Army vaccine to protect against all current and future COVID and SARS variants? Within weeks, scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to announce that they have developed a vaccine that is effective against COVID-19 and all its variants, even Omicron, as well as from previous SARS-origin viruses that have killed millions of people worldwide, Defense One’s Tara Copp reports off an exclusive interview with Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, who leads Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch.
The Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle vaccine, or SpFN, has been in the works since early 2020. It completed animal trials and Phase 1 human trials earlier this year, with the Phase 1 results currently getting a final review. “It's very exciting to get to this point for our entire team and I think for the entire Army as well,” Modjarrad said.
Next up: Phase 2 and 3 trials. The drug still needs testing “in the real-world setting,” including with people who have already taken other vaccines or been infected with COVID.
How it works: “Unlike existing vaccines, Walter Reed’s SpFN uses a soccer ball-shaped protein with 24 faces for its vaccine, which allows scientists to attach the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on different faces of the protein.”
Go deeper: This Army release links to several scientific papers that have emerged from the SpFN effort. Or listen to this recent interview of Modjarrad by natsec pro Loren DeJonge Schulman.
From Defense One
US Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say // Tara Copp: Within weeks, Walter Reed researchers expect to announce that human trials show success against Omicron—and even future strains.
Air Force Breakthrough Brings Space-Based Solar Power One Step Closer // Patrick Tucker: Tomorrow’s remote military bases could be powered by a light-to-microwave tile that just passed a key test.
Small Firm Tapped to Make Threat Detectors for Satellites // Marcus Weisgerber: The Space Force’s $32M contract seems to be the kind of award the Pentagon has recently extolled.
The Problem with Drones that Everyone Saw Coming // Jordan Cohen and Jonathan Ellis Allen: Just because drone warfare is less dangerous for American soldiers does not mean it is more effective.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston, Tara Copp, Ben Watson, and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1989, Brandenburg Gate reopened in Berlin about six weeks after the city's Cold War-era wall fell, ending nearly 30 years of division between East and West Germany.
The White House is drawing up ways to increase economic pain for Russia if it re-invades Ukraine soon. Export controls and sanctions possibilities include car and aircraft parts and curtailed access to smartphones, Reuters reported Tuesday.
At least one approach would “employ tools used by former President Donald Trump’s administration, and carried forward by the Biden administration, to block Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from accessing advanced semiconductors,” an administration official said. More here.
The latest: Russia’s top diplomat says talks with the U.S. will happen sometime in early 2022, and separate talks with NATO officials will begin in January. That’s on top of still separate discussions Russia wants to hold with officials at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. AP has more from Moscow, here.
Get smart: CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch sees about 10 reasons Putin might invade, and each one is fairly convincing.
BTW: Ukraine is practicing using those anti-tank missiles from the U.S., but at least one top security official isn’t yet shaking in his boots over Russian troop levels on Ukraine’s border, Reuters reported Wednesday. That official is Oleksiy Danilov, and last week he told Reuters he thought “Russia would need at least 500,000-600,000 soldiers at the border ‘in order to keep the situation under control.’”
Danilov told reporters today that Russia has about 122,000 troops staged about 125 miles from Ukraine—but thousands more could arrive in any given 24-hour period. Read on, here.
Related reading: “Russian pipeline faces big hurdles amid Ukraine tensions,” via AP, reporting Wednesday from Germany.
At the White House today: POTUS46 is meeting with his Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force this morning, according to President Joe Biden’s public schedule for the day. “This update is one in a series following the President’s convening of key stakeholders from the nation’s busiest ports and the private sector ten weeks ago,” the White House said.
In a possible note of optimism, “South Africa’s noticeable drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic omicron-driven surge has passed its peak,” AP reports from Johannesburg.
More than 10 years after the fall of Gadhafi, Libyans will still have to wait a bit longer before choosing a new president. The first round of presidential voting had been planned for Friday, but officials in Tripoli are now signaling that the process could be delayed until at least late January.
Why that matters: “For nearly a year, the election was the lynchpin of international efforts to bring peace to Libya, and many have warned that either scenario — holding the vote on time or postponing it — could be a destabilizing setback,” the Associated Press reports from Cairo.
And that means the fate of the current transitional government in Tripoli “is now unclear, as the Parliamentary committee said the government’s mandate ends on Dec. 24.” More here.
Plot twist: A female Afghan Air Force pilot was rumored to be dead after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, but she has since been found to be “alive and well” in her new life on the West Coast of the United States, Stars & Stripes reported Monday.
Safia Ferozi flew out of Afghanistan with her family on Aug. 15 and was giving birth to her second daughter at a U.S. military base in Qatar when a graphic photo claiming to show her death by stoning from the Taliban went viral, Stripes’ J.P. Lawrence writes. She didn’t have any internet access in Qatar and didn’t know about the rumors until later.
But while Ferozi and her family are safe, she said she would not be if she had stayed in her home country, “If I was in Afghanistan, I’m sure it would have happened to me.” The story continues, here.
That’s a wrap for us this calendar year; we won’t be firing off another newsletter until Monday, Jan. 3. Thanks for following along today, and a special thanks to all of our 2021 subscribers, who have helped us better understand U.S. sentiment toward all sorts of big international security issues—like the defense of Taiwan, the future of Afghanistan, and the health of democracies around the world, starting here at home in the United States.
Let us know what issues, developments, and considerations you think ought to be on our radar in 2022 by sending us an email.
Have a safe holiday, and we’ll see you again next year!