Summary Box: Scientists man bioterror front lines

THE HISTORY: For decades, federal research labs such as Lawrence Livermore had served as the government’s Cold War research and development division.

POST SEPT. 11: Over the past decade, they transformed themselves to invent new lines of defense against new terror threats, developing a nationwide system to sniff the air for germs such as anthrax and smallpox.

AN EXAMPLE: Researchers have created an early warning system for airborne pathogen. The system, known as Biowatch, is now deployed in about 30 cities. The program is designed to alert authorities of a release of deadly germs even before patients start showing up sick.