|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (June 2013)|
Kanatzhan (Kanat) Alibekov (Russian: Канатжан Алибеков; Kazakh: Қанатжан Әлібеков; born 1950) — known as Ken (Kenneth) Alibek since 1992 — is a former Soviet physician, microbiologist and biological warfare (BW) expert. As the First Deputy Director of Biopreparat of the Soviet Army, he oversaw BW facilities. In 1992, he defected to the United States, and later became an American citizen. Between 1998 and 2005, he testified several times before the U.S. Congress on biotechnology issues. He is currently chief scientific officer of MaxWell Biocorporation.
Youth and early career
Kenneth Alibek was born Kanatzhan ("Kanat") Alibekov in Kauchuk, in the Kazakh SSR of the Soviet Union (in present day Kazakhstan) to a Kazakh family and grew up in Almaty, the republic's former capital. He studied military medicine at the Tomsk Medical Institute and was selected to work for Biopreparat, the secret biological weapons program overseen by the Soviet Union’s Council of Ministers. His first assignment (1975) was to the Eastern European Branch of the Institute of Applied Biochemistry (IAB) near Omutninsk, a combined pesticide production facility and biological weapons production plant intended for activation in time of war. At Omutninsk, Alibek learned to formulate and evaluate nutrient media and cultivation conditions for large-scale production of microorganisms and their toxins. Working at the Siberian branch of the IAB near Berdsk, Alibek helped to design and construct a microbiology research laboratory that optimized production of biological formulations. Later, at the Kazakhstan Scientific and Production Base in Stepnogorsk, Alibek supervised an assembly line that could be used to produce weaponized anthrax. He was eventually transferred to Moscow.
Work at Biopreparat-Moscow
In Moscow, Alibek worked as Deputy Chief of the Biosafety Directorate and then First Deputy Director at Biopreparat, where he was in charge of production of biological weapons, antibiotics, vaccines, sera, and interferon. In 1990, following an announcement that the Ministry of Medical and Microbiological Industry was to be reorganized, Alibek recommended cessation of Biopreparat’s BW work to Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev approved the proposal, but an additional paragraph had been secretly inserted into Alibekov’s memo,[by whom?] resulting in a presidential decree that required Biopreparat remain prepared for future production. On the basis of the decree, Alibek ordered the dismantling of BW production and testing capabilities at research and development facilities including Stepnogorsk, Kol’tsovo and Obolensk, and planned to re-task production at a Biopreparat facility called Biomash to civilian purposes.
Alibek was placed in charge of preparations for inspections of Soviet biological facilities by a joint American and British delegation. While participating in Soviet inspection of American facilities, Alibek found that the United States did not appear to have an offensive BW program. The Soviet Union dissolved while he was in the U.S. In 1992, Alibek resigned from the Soviet Army and Biopreparat in protest over what he said was the continuation of weapons programs.
Life in the United States
In October, 1992, Alibek emigrated with his family to the U.S. Alibek gave the U.S. government a detailed account of the former Soviet BW program and testified before the U.S. Congress (see also Sverdlovsk anthrax leak). He helped establish a biodefense graduate education program at George Mason University (GMU), including a biosafety level three (BSL-3) research facility. In 1999, Alibek published an autobiographical account of his work in the Soviet Union and his defection. Alibek left GMU in 2006 and is employed by AFG Biosolutions, Inc and MaxWell Biocorporation. According to the MaxWell website, the company investigates aging and immunotherapy for late stage cancer.
Alibek published more than 80 articles in classified journals on the development of new types of biological weapons and on medical aspects of biodefense prior to his defection to the United States.
While living in the United States, Alibek has authored or co-authored numerous books, book chapters, opinion pieces, and peer-reviewed articles. He has also testified before the U.S. Congress.
- Alibek, Ken and Steven Handelman (1999), Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World - Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It, Random House, ISBN 0-385-33496-6.
- "The Anthrax Vaccine: Is It safe? Does it Work?" (2002), Reviewer. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., Institute of Medicine .
- Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities (2002), Workshop Summary, Contributor. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., Institute of Medicine .
- Weinstein, R.S. and K. Alibek (2003), Biological and Chemical Terrorism: A Guide for Healthcare Providers and First Responders, Thieme Medical Publishing, New York.
- Alibek, K., et al. (2003), Biological Weapons, Bio-Prep, Louisiana, Jan.
- Fong, I. and K. Alibek (2005),"Bioterrorism and Infectious Agents: A New Dilemma for the 21st Century", Springer.
- Fong, I. and K. Alibek (2006), New and Evolving Infections of the 21st Century, Springer.
- Book chapters
- "Firepower in the Lab: Automation in the Fight Against Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism" (2001), Chapter 15 of Biological Weapons: Past, Present, and Future, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., Institute of Medicine.
- Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook (2002), Second Edition, F. R. Sidell, W. C. Patrick, T. R. Dashiell, K. Alibek, Jane’s Information Group, Alexandria, VA.
- K. Alibek, C. Lobanova, "Modulation of Innate Immunity to Protect Against Biological Weapon Threat" (2006), In: Microorganisms and Bioterrorism, Springer.
- The New York Times
- "Russia’s Deadly Expertise", March 27, 1998.
- "Smallpox Could Still Be a Danger", May 24, 1999.
- The Wall Street Journal
- "Russia Retains Biological Weapons Capability", February, 2000.
- "Bioterror: A Very Real Threat", October, 2001.
- The Washington Post
- "Anthrax under the Microscope", with Matthew Meselson, November 5, 2002.
- Selected Congressional testimony
- Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, May, 1998: "Terrorist and Intelligence Operations: Potential Impact on the US Economy"
- Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June, 1999
- Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, October, 1999
- Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, May, 2000
- Testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform, October, 2001: "Combating Terrorism: Assessing the Threat of a Biological Weapons Attack", House Serial No. 107-103
- Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations, December, 2001: "Russia, Iraq, and Other Potential Sources of Anthrax, Smallpox, and Other Bioterrorist Weapons"
- Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the Committee on Appropriations, November, 2001
- Testimony before the Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack, Committee on Homeland Security, US House of Representatives, July 28, 2005: "Implementing a National Biodefense Strategy"
- House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, March 1999 Biological Warfare Threats
- Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack, July, 2005: "Engineering Bio-terror Agents: Lessons Learned from the Offensive US and Russian Biological Weapons Programs"
- Anderson, D. (2006), Lessons Learned from the Former Soviet Biological Warfare Program; UMI Dissertation Services, UMI NO. 3231331
- Alibek, Ken and Stephen Handelman (1999), Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World - Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It, Delta (2000) ISBN 0-385-33496-6 
- "Interview Dr. Ken Alibek", Journal of Homeland Security (September 18, 2000)