EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE:
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
2 P.M., EST, SEPT. 25, 2003
At UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
UMDNJ Researcher Collaborates with FBI on Development of
Microbial Forensics System to Help Thwart Bioterrorism
Report To Appear in Sept. 26 Issue of Science
A researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of
New Jersey (UMDNJ) has collaborated with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) on the development of a microbial forensics
system to help deter bioterrorism and identify those responsible
Microbial forensics can be described as a "scientific approach
that analyzes evidence from a bioterrorism act, biocrime or inadvertent
microorganism/toxin release for attribution purposes," said Dr.
Steven E. Schutzer, physician-scientist at the UMDNJ-New Jersey
Medical School in Newark.
The new system is reported in the September 26 issue of the
"The goal of a national system of microbial forensics is to
deter the use of a microbe as a bioweapon or, if used, to catch
the culprit while protecting the innocent," said Dr. Schutzer.
Dr. Schutzer helped structure specific laboratory guidelines
in collaborating with members of the FBI scientific working group,
led by Dr. Bruce Budowle, the senior scientist for the FBI. Scientists
from the United States Department of Agriculture, New York State
Department of Health, Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory and
the Children's National Medical Center of Washington, D.C., also
participated in the collaboration and are authors of the journal article.
"Law enforcement has had the traditional role and infrastructure
for investigating crimes and is now enhancing its capabilities to confront the new challenge
of biological weapon use and bioterrorism through partnership
with the scientific community," said Dr. Budowle.
The U.S. Government and the Department of Homeland Security
are creating a national forensics laboratory and partnership network.
Quality assurance guidelines will ensure credible and reliable
results from laboratories performing microbial forensic analyses.
In the past, a similar scientific working group helped establish
human DNA analysis as admissible evidence in the courts.
Suspected evidence could be transported to a biosafety containment
laboratory certified in microbial forensics analysis. There the
organism could be cultured, examined with sophisticated microscopes
and its DNA content analyzed. Other associated laboratories in
the bioforensics network could examine items for fingerprints,
handwriting or associated material. Together, these analyses may
reveal the source and help identify the perpetrator.
The UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School is one of three medical
schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
UMDNJ comprises New Jersey's only three medical schools, the state's
only dental school, a nursing school, a graduate school of biomedical
sciences, a school of health related professions and a school
of public health on campuses in Newark, Piscataway/New Brunswick,
Camden, Stratford and Scotch Plains. UMDNJ also operates University
Hospital, Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare. It is
affiliated with more than 200 health care and educational institutions
throughout the state.