The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 3rd

UNC-G to Study Bioterrorism

UNC-Greensboro will receive half a million dollars to fund research aimed at finding detection methods for water- borne bioterrorist agents.

President Clinton signed the bill funding the grant on Oct. 27.

Ed McDonald, press secretary for Rep. Howard Coble R-N.C., said the seeds of the bioterrorism research endeavor lie in recent terrorist attacks - most notably, the 1995 Sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway.

"It showed the potential for bioterrorism," McDonald said.

McDonald said the grant could allow UNC-G to be a leader in the field of bioterrorist agent research.

He added that one of the reasons UNC-G received the grant was because of its facilities and faculty specializing in bioterrorism research.

Peter Alfonso, spokesman for UNC-G's Provost's Office, also said UNC-G has experience researching bioterrorism.

"It represents an area of research that we're creating a larger base to support," Alfonso said.

UNC-G assistant Professor Neal Stewart will be heading the research and said the university has already invested in technology it will need.

Specifically, the research will ultimately try to identify certain bioterrorist agents.

"We'll be looking for certain biological warfare elements," Stewart said. "We'll be looking at bacteria, finding genes and DNA sequences that can be used for diagnostic tests."

Stewart said this research could be beneficial because of the changing nature of biological warfare.

"Anthrax and plague cause disease in a very acute manner and are getting easier and easier to grow," Stewart said.

With a method to identify these bioterrorist agents, the water supply can be monitored for presence of such agents.

UNC-G will receive the grant in 2001. But Stewart said the initial half-million dollars will only cover research costs for the first year. He said he hopes Congress will continue to fund the grant for three years.

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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