National microbial risk center will help scientists get a handle on infectious diseases

EAST LANSING, Mich. Michigan State University unveils today the development of a new center that will help everyone from first responders to legislators deal with infectious diseases as well as bioterrorism threats.

Thanks to a $10 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Homeland Security, MSU will take the lead in the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment (CAMRA) a consortium of scientists from seven universities with expertise in quantitative microbial risk assessment methods, biosecurity and infectious disease transmission through environmental exposure.

Joan Rose, a world-renowned scientist and Homer Nowlin Chair for water research at MSU, was named co-director of CAMRA a project she hopes will provide the tools needed to combat bioterrorism and ward off global outbreaks of infectious diseases.

"We've done a good job of developing the framework for chemical risks, but microbial risk assessment has received much less attention," she said. "We continue to struggle with these microbial risks and infectious disease outbreaks, including those that are spread intentionally via terrorism. The tools we develop will better prepare first responders and decision-makers to deal with these issues."

The center is the brainchild of Rose and Chuck Haas, an environmental engineer with Drexel University in Philadelphia. Shortly after receiving a request for proposals from EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, the two joined forces to assemble a team of scientists from across the country and created a model that they hope will help shape policy and create a global strategy for dealing with microbial risks.

"Chuck and I have been working together for years and often talked about the need for a better science base and framework for microbial assessment," Rose said. "So when we saw this opportunity to work together with Homeland Security and EPA, we jumped on it


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