OSU getting $40 million in contracts for bioterror research

Wednesday, November 10th 2004, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma State University will be getting a chunk of the $1.6 billion being allocated by the Bush administration to combat bioterrorism threats.

OSU researchers in the veterinary sciences will receive $40 million worth of contracts over the next seven years to discover vaccines, OSU President David Schmidly said Tuesday.

The school's portion of the bioterrorism contracts amount to the eighth-largest sum given to a university. 55 research entities received the contracts.

Researchers will use the money to develop testing procedures so the government can validate drugs and vaccines for placement in stockpiles, as a biodefense mechanism, said Dr. William Barrow, principal investigator for the project.

The tools include vaccines possibly to immunize the public against diseases that could be caused by bioterrorism agents.

The National Institutes of Health, through one of its divisions called the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is administering the contracts.

Barrow, who is the Sitlington Endowed Chair in the College of Veterinary Medicine's pathobiology department, said OSU will develop ways "to screen new compounds against emerging bacterial pathogens."

"The contract stipulates the testing of up to 500 compounds per year," he said. OSU is hoping to increase its research capabilities to be able to exceed that level of testing, officials said.

Drs. Becky Morton, Ken Clinkenbeard and John Wyckoff, faculty in OSU's veterinary pathobiology department, are members of Barrow's research team. Barrow is a microbiologist whose emphasis is infectious diseases and antimicrobial drug development.

Increasingly, veterinarians are being enlisted in biodefense research because of their experience working to contain diseases such as anthrax and tularemia, or rabbit fever, officials said.

"Veterinarians have knowledge of those diseases that potentially could be used in bioterrorism, but they also deal with drug resistance in the bacterial community," Barrow said.

OSU has received an initial $1.6 million. The school will receive more money as it fulfills tasks assigned to it by the federal government.