Joe Torres

Scientist @ Panoplia Laboratories
40 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)


Scientific Experience: Three years of virology (developing cell-based assays for inhibitors of HIV replication), about six months studying breast cancer immunology, about seven years in immunology (studying microRNA regulation of T cell function in the context of graft-versus-host disease), and about nine months in nucleic acid based vaccines and therapeutics (at Alvea).  Currently working at Panoplia Laboratories and developing prophylactic and therapeutic broad-spectrum antivirals.

Education: Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology; B.S. Cellular and Molecular Biology, Chemistry minor

Other Experience: Biotechnology specialist for an intellectual property law firm for about two years

Primary EA Interest: Catastrophic biological risk


For what it's worth, several of us at Alvea have been keeping a close eye on this for a while. If this escalates, then it is very likely that we would respond appropriately. (Note: My opinions are my own and I do not speak for Alvea in any official capacity.)

One of the main challenges of photodynamic therapy is that biological tissues absorb and scatter the light used in the therapy.[1]  This seems to limit the effectiveness of such therapies to tissue depths less than 1-2cm.

The review article cites three studies as examples of in vivo photodynamic therapy; however, none of these overcome the challenge of tissue penetration.  The first study [2] is a skin xenograft model (which needs very little tissue penetration and does not seem obviously superior to topical therapy), the second [3] pre-treats virus before inoculation (technically not an in vivo model of photodynamic therapy), and the third [4] was in oysters and used curcumin[5].

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"This doesn't sound like a startup"
Agreed, but I decided to err on the side of being overly broad with the definition.  

Meta note: Implementing a biological safety reporting system would need reputable institutional backing in order to gain traction.  I am not particularly well-positioned to enact or influence adoption of a reporting system nor am I likely well-suited to designing one.  



Unverified anonymous reporting would need to be possible, but would likely only be useful for general safety issues (e.g., ACME autoclaves keep failing sterilization tests) or raising awareness of concerns (e.g., I hear that the Akoawak Lab is adapting N1H5 influenza for handshake transmissibility) instead of being immediately actionable.  

Identity verification of the reporter should be able to be decoupled from the report and, if they wish to remain anonymous, the key to their identity can remain in their hands.  Alternatively, the identity can remain with the reporting system and only be revealed when a specified criteria is met (e.g., BWC investigation, scientific misconduct hearing, a threshold of corroborating reports).

Biological Safety Reporting System:

Despite the effectiveness of safety reporting systems (see, e.g., Aviation Safety Reporting System) at identifying weak points in safety protocols and reducing risks of accidents, there does not appear to be an analogous system for biological risks.  [1]

Desired Features: 

  • Anonymous reporting
  • Optional identity verification of reporters (for credibility and whistleblower protection)
     - Encription of reporter identity (secure multi-party computation?) for increased whistleblower security
  • Submission of bioinfohazard sequences to a biological risk sequence surveillance organization (e.g., SecureDNA
  • Encription of reports containing bioinfohazards

EA Advantages:


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    The Federal Select Agent Program only applies to a short list of pathogens and does not apply to novel hazards.