The Biology Department conducts research on anthrax. A social research group measures society’s response to a threat. A professor in public health works to improve disease detection.

Under the University’s Bioterrorism Preparedness Initiative, research in these varied areas come together to increase Michigan’s level of preparedness.

The University will receive a $7.5 million fraction of $350 million in federal grants to support research and training in bioterrorism. The appropriation of the funds is part of a national plan to increase regional preparation against and prevention of biological threats.

The money will be distributed throughout the University to support research and training programs related to issues in bioterrorism.

Schools such as the School of Public Health and the Institute for Social Research conduct studies in science, medicine, social work and welfare independent of one another. The University last year created the bioterrorism initiative to collaborate these research interests, organize statewide training and write grant proposals.

“The initiative is basically a cross-campus initiative in research and training, bringing people together to develop their own research and align it with the initiative,” said Public Health Prof. Arnold Monto, director of the initiative. “Our job is to try to take advantage of the strengths of the University’s resources and to try and get funding.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases distributed the funds among eight Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE), which then channel the money to various institutions for research and training. The Midwestern RCE received $35 million and will administer those funds to 14 institutions, including the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The University of Michigan received $7.5 million, said James Baker, the initiative’s director of research, who lobbied for the University.

“The initiative is a means through NIAID to ensure that there is regional expertise in bioterrorism. They want to support research in bioterrorism and to provide a central resource if there is an attack,” Baker said.

Throughout the University, departments can work directly with the issue of bioterrorism, conducting research on anthrax, for instance, Monto said. Other programs evaluate government policy and measuring threat response levels. The School of Public Health is working to improve Michigan’s detection system so health officials can accurately identify a potential threat.

“We are gathering people across campus who show interest in bioterrorist research,” Monto said.

Jenifer Martin, the initiative’s administrator, said the initiative has an advisory committee made up of deans and faculty from throughout the University.

“We work to link the University’s research capabilities with federal and state demands to prepare for and prevent bioterrorism in a post-9-11 world,” Martin said.

Biological research involves developing countermeasures such as drugs and decontaminants so that the state’s health infrastructure can more effectively respond to a health crisis.

Administrators noted that bioterrorism prevention involves both man-made and natural threats, including diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and smallpox.

The bioterror initiative “will provide centralized resources so that communities like ours will not have to deal with such diseases, so that they will be contained within laboratories. You can reassure people in the community that they will not have to deal with live, toxic agents,” Baker said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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