September 3, 2002

University Awarded Homeland Security Grants

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Cornell’s agricultural diagnostic capabilities earned two of the University’s colleges substantial federal grants late last spring as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) homeland security initiative against bioterrorism.

Boasting vast, comprehensive diagnostic capabilities, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Veterinary Medicine received a portion of the $2.1 million allotted to the northeastern region of the country to conduct cutting edge diagnostics of plant and animal disease.

CALS received a two-year grant for $900,000 while the Veterinary College received a two-year grant for $750,000.

National center

“Cornell was chosen as one of five national centers [to conduct plant disease diagnostic procedures],” said Prof. Rosemary Loria, plant science. “Among the states in the northeast, we have the strongest contingence of plant pathologists, entomologists and plant production specialists.”

In the northeast, CALS will serve as the core laboratory in conducting plant disease detection and diagnostics while the Veterinary College will be a satellite laboratory conducting animal diagnostics in conjunction with a core laboratory in the region.

Global pests

“Cornell has considerable expertise in dealing with exotic plant pests and we study some of them under quarantine conditions. We also have expertise to identify some of those global pests that might be used by agricultural terrorists. This research will focus on those organisms,” said William E. Fry, associate dean in a June publication of the Cornell Chronicle.

The plant science department will equip their labs with new technological devices and instruments to accurately and rapidly diagnose potentially threatening plant diseases.

In reference to the innovative technology that their project plans to implement, Loria said, “[Our scientists] will use digital images on a routine basis for diagnosing plant problems.”

The Veterinary College, also chosen for its size and level of capability, will work with other laboratories in the northeastern region on diagnostic procedures for one of eight animal diseases chosen by the USDA.

“We are the largest and most comprehensive veterinary diagnostic lab in the country,” said Alfonso Torres, director, Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, who cited reasons for Cornell’s reception of the grant.

Last month, labs receiving similar USDA grants across the country submitted a preferred disease on which to focus their respective diagnostics.

“Different labs chose diseases according to their particular expertise and interests,” Torres said.

The veterinary college expects to receive the USDA’s response to their proposal in the next few days and plans to submit finalized project plans at the beginning of next month.

Both CALS and the veterinary college hope to renew their grants in 2004.

Archived article by Ellen Miller