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Office of Vice President and
Chief of Staff
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


U.S.Reps. Diaz-Balart, Mack Present FGCU with $1 Million Biodefense Research Grant

FGCU scientists will use federally approved benign surrogates to develop biodefense technologies that help expand and enhance the U.S.'s security biological capabilities. FGCU will not use real biological agents.

"This funding begins a new era at FGCU in that this is the first funded research to focus specifically on developing new technologies, in this case, concentrating on defense and security matters with dual uses for public health, medical diagnostics and environmental monitoring," President William C. Merwin said.

Of the four areas the federal government defines in biodefense - detection, protection, decontamination and intelligence - FGCU will address the first three and direct research on developing more rapid, sensitive and effective capabilities, easier to use technologies, technologies that eliminate false positives, sensitive and reliable early warning capabilities, and expanding capabilities to protect combatants and public health.

"Needless to say, the greatest weapon of bioterrorists is fear and the second greatest is that they got it right and a large scale human health impact is realized," FGCU director of biotechnology Randall Alberte said.

"As far as the public is concerned, knowledge is the best solution to minimize fear and to provide the needed understanding for rational and effective responses that minimize risk."

In addressing threat detection, FGCU will research novel sensor technologies for microbes, more sensitive means to assess viral threats, and new capabilities to detect trace levels of threat compounds. The research will yield civilian uses such as new diagnostics tools for infectious diseases, next generation tools for environmental monitoring, monitoring technologies for use in public spaces to protect public health, and monitoring systems for food safety and public health.

Engaging in research on threat protection, FGCU will develop effective simple systems for trapping threat agents in air and water, and effective entrapment technologies for non-wovens and coatings which will produce dual-use safeguards for drinking water, food production, medical products and production sanitation, applications for a variety of airborne allergies, and environmental assessment.

In the area of decontamination, FGCU plans to research safe and effective photo catalytic destruction technologies for surfaces, and decontamination foams for human or material surfaces. The research will provide air and water purification and decontamination technologies for the home, public facilities and industry.

FGCU scientists believe their work will further develop research opportunities for students, contribute to meeting the national need for the pursuit of quantitative sciences and math, increase technologies that improve public health around the nation, enhance understanding of issues that will affect life for the rest of the century, and contribute to developing an informed public.

Other principal investigators on the project include interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jose Barreto, assistant professor of physical science Ed Gillman, instructor of clinical science Julie Hammerling assistant professor of biotechnology Sharon Isern and associate professor of biotechnology Scott Michael.

For more information, contact associate vice president for Community Relations Audrea Anderson at (239) 590-1083.

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