For scientists working at the Department of Homeland Security’s biodefense research laboratory, the directive from senior agency officials was unprecedented: drop everything and focus on one target, the coronavirus. As the number of positive cases in the United States tops 1.2 million and deaths exceed 70,000, those scientists have been working 15 hours a day, seven days a week trying to crack the COVID-19 code. “This is the most urgent thing we have worked on since 9/11,” said Lloyd Hough, a senior official and biology expert with Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.


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