University of Minnesota seeks grant extension for food and bioterror efforts

Published 20 October 2006

National Center for Food Protection and Defense nears the end of a three year grant; center a leader in the field with innovative approaches in sensor and analytic technology, data management, and predictive software

Although the parochial-minded residents of the east and west coasts may look down upon their Midwestern cousins, it is the universities in America’s heartland — or breadbasket, if you prefer — that are making some of the biggest contributions to food safety and bioterror research. We reported earlier this month on Illinois’ prominence in the field, but today we turn our attention to the University of Minnesota and its federally funded National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD). Now at the end of a three-year, $15 million DHS grant, the center — one of six total — is looking for a renewal of equal size or greater. NCFPD successes to date include:


The “FASTMAN” instrument, a platform for rapid detection of potential

biological and chemical agents in the food system, developed by NCFPD investigators in collaboration with private sector companies ANDX and 3M.

NCFPD’s “consequence management system,” developed by BT Safety LLC in collaboration with multiple NCFPD investigators. The technology visually demonstrates the potential magnitude of public health and economic consequences of a specific contamination scenario, e.g., introduction of botulinum toxin into specialty ice cream production.

A dataset shows that 314 intentional chemical, biological, and radiological terrorist attacks have occurred worldwide since 1961. Investigators use a risk metric, based on Extreme Value Statistics, to assess and predict the probabilities of rare but catastrophic terrorist events based on past observations, and have shown that the frequency of such terrorist events is increasing while the average length of time between incidents is declining.


The renewal process, which included a panel visit by DHS in late August, is expected to be completed by March.

-read more in Sam Darcy’s and Conrad Wilson’s Minnesota Daily report ; also center Web site