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The US has been promoting cross-border threat screening for biological agents. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS).

Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities.

According to the DHS S&T announcement, the DHS intends to fund this new Center of Excellence for 10 years through a cooperative agreement.

The overarching goal of the Center will be to research and develop solutions, protocols, and capabilities to support the identification of potential biological threats within the DHS operational environment that could disrupt critical infrastructure supply chains and the operational activities conducted at ports of entry, land borders, and other critical nodes within the supply chain.

DHS encounters persistent and emerging biological threats while working at ports of entry, land borders, and airports. Biological and chemical agents, novel biological agents, invasive species, infectious human and zoonotic diseases, and counterfeit or adulterated goods are a key focus for this Center of Excellence.

These biological and chemical threats can affect infrastructures directly, halt their productivity, disrupt DHS operations, and damage health and economy.

Potential approaches to address these threats include the use of innovative technologies (e.g., screening physical cargo and passengers and data analysis), optimizing operational procedures, and developing a skilled workforce trained in the latest methods to identify biological threats. DHS must protect its workforce from these threats by providing tools and knowledge that can assist in reducing risk.

Therefore, the DHS is aiming at working closely with multi-disciplinary research teams from various academic disciplines, including engineering, scientific, and mathematics sub-disciplines to develop successful innovations.

The S&T centers of excellence are university consortia that work closely with DHS operating components to conduct research, develop and transition mission-relevant science and technology, and educate the next generation of homeland security technical experts.