Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the
November 7, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
NJ & Bio-Terror Fighting — Perfect Together?
Anthrax still ranks well below the flu as a major
but its fear quotient is way higher. And beyond the anthrax problem
lurk other unknown bioterror terrors.
New Jersey finds itself at the epicenter of this scare, and Acting
Governor Donald DiFrancesco went to Washington on Monday, November
5, to ask for a big piece — $916 million — of the
pie. If crime fighters and scientists need to ramp up quickly, New
Jersey has the space — the 78,000 square feet that was just
by ValiGen in Hopewell.
Last Wednesday, October 31, U.S. 1 predicted that the State of New
Jersey’s interest in that already-completed lab space might be
to the anti-terror effort. The reason why ValiGen shut down its
was because its European investors — who watched the Twin Towers
fall on September 11 — got queasy and withdrew. It would be sweet
irony if the space prepared for ValiGen could be effectively used
to fight bioterror attackers.
DiFrancesco did not get a "yes" on leasing the laboratory
from Tom Ridge, head of the federal Office of Homeland Security, but
Ridge promised to have the federal department of health and human
services "examine the state’s growing laboratory needs in light
of current and possible bioterrorism attacks." Ridge also promised
distribution centers (and help with sampling smaller post offices
if more contamination is discovered).
to decontaminate mail.
in a very unglamorous spot, part of a Ewing warehouse owned by the
New Jersey State Police and last used when preparing for a potential
Y2K crisis. Once again, a space has been cleared and more than 100
desks, telephones, and computers have been shuttled from state
Kevin Donovan, of the FBI’s Newark office, is the special agent in
charge of the anthrax investigation. Most of the 340 FBI agents in
New Jersey are working on one aspect or another of the September 11
disaster. "The FBI is in overall charge, coordinating the criminal
investigation concerning the anthrax scenarios," says John
spokesperson for the state police.
"We are tracking the leads as best as possible in an effort to
develop information on persons involved in the anthrax scare,"
he says. Hazardous materials teams conduct initial testings where
anthrax is suspected, and the department of health does the analysis.
The FBI has its own team to collect criminal evidence.
"Most of the laboratory facilities testing the suspected substance
are from the health department," he says. "The focus of the
state police laboratory is on the terror side of forensic science,
assisting the New York police in comparing DNA."
"Additional space is necessary," says Hagarty. "Additional
lab technicians are needed to support the government’s request to
test all the post offices in the state and continue the process of
testing suspicious substances reported by the public."
For example, since September 11, the state office of emergency
has taken 3,650 phone calls reporting suspicious packages, letters,
and substances that have required police or hazmat team response.
Many of those are referred to local or county hazmat teams. But if
a sample is collected, it is being tested by the health department
The governor said the asked-for federal money would go to test every
postal facility, to rapidly test and analyze environmental samples,
to hire more medical investigators and law enforcement officials,
to provide antibiotics, and to get priority treatment for state postal
facilities with upgraded equipment.
"We are certainly interested in moving forward with the lab
utilizing not only New Jersey’s resources but also federal resources
and scientists from the private sector," says Hagarty.
According to the McDevitt website
this laboratory has never been occupied. Not true. The lease was
but ValiGen occupied that space for several weeks. "But very
wet chemistry was done there," says Kevin McGloon, the leasing
agent for McDevitt Real Estate Services, representing the owner,
Capital. "The stuff in the freezers has been removed."
"It is a great facility and it is ready to go," says Doug
Petrozzini of the commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis. He had
signed the first tenant, ValiGen. "McDevitt has it on the market
at $28 or $29 a foot, and that’s a good number given what is in
Whether the state will get preference, due to emergency need, over
a private company, McGloon won’t say. He seems ready to take the first
tenant who comes up with the money. "The state is one of 10
tenants," he emphasizes.
Central Jersey’s drug companies are quite ready to
their resources to help fight the anthrax war. On October 22 Peter
Dolan, chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, offered the services
of a team of 20 to 25 scientists do to anti-terrorism research.
would pay the team and provide lab space," says Bill Dunnett,
B-MS spokesperson. The offer was made as part of a package that the
firm would provide its own brand of antibiotics free of charge to
the American people — should the government and the FDA agree
that it would be useful for the treatment of anthrax.
Would B-MS scientists be doing anthrax testing or forensic work? No,
their research would look to the future — focusing on potential
pathogens that bioterrorists might use — to evaluate existing
drugs and potential new drugs. And B-MS can’t do this research without
the say-so of the federal government. "We’ve got to work in close
conjunction with government researchers," cautions Dunnett.
we wouldn’t necessarily need to have the actual pathogens in our
There is no time limit on the offer, and it has not been accepted.
The scientists could set up their laboratories in Hopewell or in
"There has been nothing like this since World War II; it is
a serious offer," says Dunnett. "Other pharma companies have
also stepped up to the plate to make similar proposals."
For instance, on October 24 Johnson & Johnson offered to help the
Department of Health and Human Services in any way, including
manufacturing facilities, distribution channels, and public
and education. It could contribute experts in medical devices and
surgical instrumentation and diagnostics.
Four months before the anthrax scare, Johnson & Johnson applied to
the Food and Drug Administration to have its drug Levaquin approved
for anthrax treatment. Now J&J says it will turn over to the federal
government up to 100 million tablets of Levaquin — if and when
it is approved by the FDA.
J&J says that Levaquin is a quinolone anti-infective that, on lung
penetration, can be compared with ciprofloxacin. It has conducted
in-vitro trials to document Levaquin’s activity against anthrax. J&J’s
offer followed the announcement of a deal that German drug company
Bayer made with the U.S. Department of Human Services to deliver from
100 to 300 million tablets of the antibiotic Cipro for the cut rate
price of 95 cents a tablet.
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