USAMRIID Suspends Select Agent Research

ScienceInsider is reporting that the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) has suspended their research on biological select agents and toxins. Officials froze research last Friday when they realized that there were problems with the system of accounting for high risk microbes and biological materials in the laboratories at Fort Detrick, MD and have begun an inventory of select agents and toxins at the facility. Not coincidentally, this is the same facility that has been under intense scrutiny after the FBI named researcher Bruce Ivins as their main suspect in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks.

“The decision was announced by institute commander, Col. John Skvorak, in a 4 February memo to employees. The memo, which ScienceInsider has obtained, says the standard of accountability that USAMRIID had been applying to its select agents and toxins was not in line with the standard required by the Army and the Department of Defense. USAMRIID officials believed that a satisfactory accounting involved finding all the items listed on its database, the Army and DOD wanted the converse; that is, all select agents and toxins needed to be matched to the database.”

The Army is clearly clamping down on their select agent research programs with very strict accounting of biological agents and, personnel in direct response to the Ivins case. Of note, on October 28, 2008 Army Regulation 50-1 came into effect. AR50-1, outlines a strict Biological Personnel Reliability Program for all DoD employees with access to BSAT. In order to be cleared to work with or have access to BSAT everyone must go through intense screening. This includes an interview, personnel security investigation, personnel records review, medical evaluation (includes mental evaluation and any medications) and drug testing.

The post USAMRIID Suspends Select Agent Research appears on the FAS Strategic Security Blog.

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2 Responses to “USAMRIID Suspends Select Agent Research”

  1. Page van der Linden February 9, 2009 at 7:15 PM #

    Just a quick question. Would it be oversimplifying things to say that, given accountability and security concerns at select agent labs nationwide, it would be nice if those labs could be encouraged to follow the rules and standards laid out in AR50-1?

    (I hope my html works… apologies if it didn’t.)

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  1. Science Magazine Biodefense News - Army Bans Pathogen Work » FAS Strategic Security Blog - May 8, 2009

    [...] early February the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) also suspended their research on biological select agents and toxins when they realized that there were problems with the system of accounting for high risk microbes [...]

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