Logo: University of Southern California

USC Partners on 2nd Homeland Security Center

April 28, 2004 —

The University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering will partner with Texas A&M University on a new national Department of Homeland Security center of excellence -- its second such partnership.

The new National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, will receive $18 million in funding from the DHS, to be distributed through a consortium of institutions that will include, besides USC and Texas A&M, the University of Texas Medical Branch; the University of California at Davis, Texas Tech University and the University of Maryland.

"We are delighted to again be called to serve the nation's national security needs with our expertise," said the dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering C.L. Max Nikias.

USC was also recently selected as the first DHS national center of excellence, known as the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), established in November 2003. Randolph W. Hall of USC's Viterbi School of Engineering and Detlof von Winterfeldt of the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development lead CREATE.

Robert M. MacGregor and Najmedin Meshkati will spearhead USC's participation in the new project.

MacGregor, a senior project leader at the School's Information Sciences Institute, is a computer scientist who works in the emerging field of Semantic Web technology, creating systems that exploit
machine-interpretable information structures to achieve more powerful kinds of interaction with information and people on the Web. MacGregor is also developing simulation models for CREATE.

Meshkati, an associate professor in the USC Viterbi School's department of civil/environmental engineering, is a widely known expert on risk management of complex, large-scale technological
systems, with particular reference to human factors, and has consulted for many national and international organizations. He is also one of the researchers involved in USC's other DHS center.

The new center will focus on the threats posed by zoonotic (diseases passed from animals to humans) and foreign-animal diseases. In its initial stages, the new center will concentrate on three specific diseases that are clear and present threats: foot-and-mouth disease, Rift Valley Fever and avian influenza.

Officials said that by working with these three diseases, the Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense will serve as a national resource of information and will produce effective products for immediate treatment and application.

The first three years of work by the center will focus on biological research and outcomes; developing databases and models that can be used for predicting needs, treatments and testing; and expanding resources and educational programs directly related to foreign animal and zoonotic diseases.

Officials said the new center will be created after negotiations are completed and will continue to grow and expand in its first three years. Each project will have a specific deadline, and more than 30 projects are expected to be completed in the first three years.


Contact: Eric Mankin 213 821 1887