The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska (NU) has been awarded a $9.6 million contract from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to continue laboratory support, capability innovation and end-user training for timely and accurate identification and mitigation of chemical and biological threats.
Since 2016, NSRI scientists have leveraged NU researchers, students, facilities and technology to help bolster DTRA’s expertise by fielding new detection capabilities and diagnostic methods. In total, more than 40 projects have been funded through these efforts, 30 with direct contributions from the NU campuses. The new contract will allow this critical work to continue through 2024.
“Developing and maintaining new chemical and biological threat detection and countermeasures is essential to the strategic deterrence efforts of the nation,” said Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Rick Evans, NSRI executive director. “As a University Affiliated Research Center designated by the Department of Defense, NSRI is tasked with providing ongoing essential scientific and engineering leadership — leadership that results in tangible solutions for use by our warfighters and first responders. As importantly, we will also strive to continue to provide opportunities for students to help build the future workforce.”
With a focus on new and emerging threats, Dillon Cunningham, NSRI director of special projects, and Dr. Thomas Mueller, NSRI director of chemical programs, will lead a team of NSRI scientists to provide independent verification and validation across a wide range of diagnostic and detection capabilities, platforms, assays and testing methods. The team will conduct field tests and skill development training with DTRA personnel to enhance end-user capacity.
“Developing and maintaining these defense capabilities for the nation requires long-term commitment,” Cunningham said. “The countering weapons of mass destruction — CWMD — mission is broad in scope, always evolving and very challenging. We are proud to have delivered results at a level that have earned this continued investment from DTRA.”
Through this contract, NSRI will continue to work with each of the NU campuses, developing laboratory capabilities as needed and investing in a workforce development pipeline that allows students to deliver on the DOD’s needs across biological, chemical and engineering disciplines.
DOD partnerships through NSRI with Dr. Paul Davis, associate professor of biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and NSRI Fellow, Dr. Ben Terry, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and NSRI Fellow, and Dr. Josh Santarpia, associate professor of microbiology and pathology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, have resulted in unique undergraduate and graduate research assistantships and experiences through similar DTRA contracts since 2016.
The award of this new contract represents a continuation in both these unique student opportunities as well as leveraging NU research in the fight against weapons of mass destruction.
“Together we have laid a tremendous foundation for successful deliverables for counterproliferation, defeat and mitigation of chemical and biological capabilities,” Cunningham said. “This contract is something we’re proud of — and now we get back to work.”
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.