Texas A&M AgriLife Partners With DHS To Combat Biological Threats At The Border

The 10-year project will help border agents deal with bacteria, viruses and other threats they may encounter.

By Michael Marks & Alexia PuenteOctober 9, 2018 8:24 am,

As we’ve seen since 9/11, partnerships to strengthen national security can sometimes make for interesting bedfellows. One case in point is a collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service. Under the 10-year project, the institutions will launch a new Center for Excellence in cross-border threat screening and supply-chain defense. The project has nearly $4 million in funding for its first year.  

Melissa Berquist, director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases at AgriLife, says the partnership will address threats that can come from livestock or plants.

“When we’re looking at what’s coming across our borders, some of what the center has proposed to work on are point-of-care diagnostics that Customs and Border Protection agents could be able to use, in terms of screening both cargo and people, as well as maintain workforce health at the border,” Berquist says. “There’s bacteria, viruses, as well as other emerging threats that are circulating globally.”

Berquist says the center will focus on potential threats that come from “bad actors” as well as accidental biological harm.

“Determining whether it’s nefarious intent or not – that’s left to other folks,” Berquist says. “Our job as the Center of Excellence is to provide the tools, resources, as well as the training needed for people to be able to identify what the threat is, and have the tools and technologies in place to respond appropriately.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.