- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

FREDERICK, Md. — Anthrax, SARS and cancer shared the spotlight recently at Fort Detrick’s Spring Research Festival, an annual event featuring recent findings from the Army’s biological-weapons-defense laboratory.

New techniques for detecting and disabling microscopic killers were depicted on colorful posters inside a huge white tent, where researchers stood ready to discuss their projects. Many wore the festival’s official T-shirt, a flower-in-a-test-tube design from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has a laboratory on post that sponsored the two-day event.

At the gathering, which ended Thursday, resident scientists from the NCI and a nearby U.S. Agriculture Department lab shared exhibit space with those from the Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. They mingled, discussed collaborations and shopped for lab supplies from vendors occupying most of the 33,600-square-foot tent.

“This is a forum of opportunity,” Fort Detrick spokesman Charles Dasey said. “This is an example of the typical way that scientists show their work to other scientists.”

Members of the public were once welcome, too. Security has been heightened since the September 11 attacks, and they have been barred from the event, which, until last year, also included an on-post carnival.

On Thursday, a lone TCBY wagon served cones and strawberry shortcake outside the tent. The 63 scientific exhibits inside included molecular biologist Michelle A. Shipley’s poster describing her work with a machine capable of analyzing a single sample for four biological agents simultaneously.

Miss Shipley found that the unit, made by Stratagene, of La Jolla, Calif., wasn’t rugged enough for field use but said the technology could save time and money in detecting biological-warfare agents.

Histotechnologist Jeffrey Brubaker, who, like Miss Shipley, works for the Army, explained how he took a staining technique long used for detecting anthrax in lab-grown cultures and found that it also reveals anthrax spores in tissue samples.

“This is the first time we’ve ever seen it done in a lab before,” Mr. Brubaker said. The benefit: faster results for less money.

J.K. Mohana Rao, an NCI structural biologist, discussed his quest to unlock secrets of the virus that causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Next door, Army biochemist Rowena Schokman exhibited research on the life cycle of filoviruses, which include Ebola.

“If we can stop the budding of this particle from an infected cell, then, essentially, we can stop the life cycle of it,” she said.

The event attracted more than 2,000 participants last year, Mr. Dasey said.


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