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Institutional Biosafety Committee

The MSU Institutional Biosafety Committee acts as the institutional review body for all research activities involving the use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules as required and outlined in the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines). The primary charge of the IBC was to review the research proposals using the NIH Guidelines as a minimum standard. The purpose of the NIH Guidelines and the IBC review process was to provide researchers with guidance for conducting these studies in a manner that minimized exposure risk for research personnel and the environment at large. As a part of this review, the committee must determine if the Principal Investigator has set the appropriate biosafety level (BSL), evaluate the category of review, methods to be used in the research projects, training records for personnel involved, and other aspects of the project.

Over the years, the role of IBCs in the university setting has expanded to include areas such as research use of human and animal cells, infectious agents, select agents, and toxins. The role continues to increase as research evolves to include dual use, stem cells, and more complicated BSL-2 projects.

The MSU Institutional Biosafety Committee membership and mission has been revised to meet the changing needs of the MSU research community. In addition to recombinant DNA reviews, the committee may provide guidance and assistance on matters such as animal and plant research containment facilities, use of infectious agents, accreditation issues, and emergency response.

The IBC meets on a monthly basis to discuss and review current projects. These meetings are open to the public. If you would like to attend a meeting, contact Jamie Willard-Smith, Ph.D. or John Gerlach for more information and a schedule.

Institutional Biosafety Committee Roster

Hans Cheng
Supervisory Research Geneticist, Avian Disease & Oncology Laboratory

Dr. Cheng is the lead scientist of a research program focused on identifying the genetic and immunological basis for resistance to Marek's disease in chickens.  His lab develops a number of genomic reagents as well as recombinant DNA viruses in order to better understand the virus-host interaction.

Scott Counts
Associate Professor, Translation Science & Molecular Medicine

Dr. Counts was recruited to Michigan State University as an Associate Professor of Translational Science and Molecular Medicine (primary) and Family Medicine (secondary) at the Grand Rapids campus. The goal of Dr. Counts’ research is to understand the molecular pathogenic mechanisms of selective neuronal vulnerability in Alzheimer’s Disease.

David Douches
Associate Professor, Crop & Soil Science

Dr. Douches' areas of specialization are potato genetics and developing potato varieties specific to Michigan needs. He also studies potato genetics and breeding for pest resistance.

Frances Pouch Downes
Professor, Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics Program

Dr. Downes's general research interests are development of diagnostic tools for emerging infectious diseases and newborn screening; and development of the evidence basis for practices used in public health and clinical laboratory practice.

John Gerlach, IBC Chairperson
Associate Professor, Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics

Research interests include studies in the following areas: the major histocompatibility complexes of man and domestic animal species, the genetic basis of disease resistance and/or susceptibility, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and the use of the dog as an animal model.

Sarah Godbehere Roosa, Lab Representative Member
Research Technologist II, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Research Technician in the Amalfitano lab where they study the host-vector innate and adaptive immune responses to adenovirus. They use adenovirus as a gene transfer vector in the development of vaccines for malaria and HIV as well as understanding the pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis.

Ralph Gorton
Adjunct Curator, MSU Entomology Department

Professor Emeritus Gorton has BS and MS degrees in entomology from Michigan State University. His graduate research focused on the epidemiology of mosquito-borne La Crosse Encephalitis virus. He taught molecular biology, microbiology, cell biology and entomology at Lansing Community College for 37 years. He is now retired from teaching and serves as the Adjunct Curator of spiders for the A. J. Cook Arthropod Research Center, Department of Entomology, MSU.

Rebecca Grumet
Professor, Horticulture

Dr. Grumet studies plant-virus interactions in cucurbits (cucumbers and melons). She is trying to develop plants that are resistant to certain diseases as well as understand the genetic mechanisms that control flower and fruit production.

András Komáromy
Associate Professor, Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Dr. András Komáromy is a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist and associate professor at the Michigan State University (MSU). As a clinician-scientist he has a special interest in the study of molecular and cellular disease mechanisms involved in blinding retinal and optic nerve diseases. He is involved in the pre-clinical work for a number of viral-mediated ocular gene therapies. Dr. Komáromy received his veterinary degree (1993) and doctorate (1996) at the University of Zurich. Following his internship in medicine and surgery at MSU (1995/96), he performed his graduate work (PhD 2002) and residency (2000-03) at the University of Florida. He was a post-doctoral fellow (2003-04) and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania before joining the faculty at MSU in 2012.

L. Karl Olson
Professor, Physiology

Dr. Olson's work is in the area of molecular endocrinology. Specifically his work centers around the chemical-induced alterations of the regulation of pancreatic islet B cell physiology and signal transduction. Educational Background: University of Minnesota, Ph.D., Pharmacology, 1991. Dr. Olson holds memberships in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Diabetes Association, the Endocrine Society, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.

Simon Petersen-Jones
Professor, Small Animal Clinical Sciences
Myers-Dunlap Endowed Chair in Canine Health

Research Interests include: Hereditary Eye Disease, Retinal Dystrophies, Therapies for Retinal Dystrophies

Suzanne Thiem
Associate Professor, Department of Entomology

Dr. Thiem’s research focuses on viral pathogens of insects. She is interested in understanding the molecular basis of viral pathogenesis. The objective of these studies is to develop new biorational methods for controlling insect pests. These issues are addressed using a baculovirus model system. Specific goals include determining the factors that control the expression of baculovirus genes, identifying and characterizing the genes that are responsible for limiting or extending baculovirus tissue and host range, and characterizing the host response to baculovirus infection.

Patrick Venta, IBC Co-Chairperson
Associate Professor, Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Dr. Venta is trained in human molecular genetics (Ph.D., Human Genetics, University of Michigan, 1983). He has experience in the isolation of mammalian genomic and cDNA recombinant DNA clones since 1980. He also has experience in bacterial and mammalian recombinant DNA expression systems for normal and mutant mammalian genes.

Jonathan Walton
Professor of Plant Biology

Dr. Walton works on a variety of questions involving plant/pathogen interactions, the biosynthesis of natural products, and enzymes for bioenergy applications. The common theme is the Kingdom Mycota, also known as the Fungi.

Patty Weber
Immunogenetics Laboratory Coordinator, Animal Science

Dr. Weber is a member of a research team investigating the effects of stress on the health and well being of dairy cattle. Her current research interest focuses on understanding alterations of gene expression profiles during neutrophil development and maturation.

Jamie Sue Willard
Biological Safety Officer
Select Agent Responsible Official

Dr. Willard, in conjunction with other EHS Bioteam members, specializes in biosafety and biosecurity for the MSU campus at large. In terms of recombinant DNA research, she and her team review all registrations to determine adequacy of containment and other biosafety/biosecurity related concerns including training, inspections and exposure response.

Community Representatives

Erik Foster
Medical Entomologist, Michigan Department of Community Health

Mr. Foster serves as Medical Entomologist for the Michigan Department of Community Health. He conducts zoonotic and vector-borne disease investigation, prevention, and control as well as community and provider outreach, education and training. Focus areas include public health pests (lice, scabies, bed bugs), and emerging vector-borne diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile) in Michigan.

Judith Kloss Smith
Laboratory Scientist Specialist, Michigan Department of Community Health

Ms. Smith is the Laboratory Health and Safety Officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health Bureau of Laboratories. Her responsibilities include leading the laboratories Health and Safety program in addition to serving as the Responsible Official for the Tier 1 Select Agent and Toxin Program. In this capacity she has oversight for the laboratories biosafety, biosecurity, chemical and radiological safety.

Kimberly Signs, DVM
Epidemiologist, Michigan Department of Community Health

Dr. Signs conducts public health surveillance for zoonotic and vector-borne diseases with the Michigan Department of Community Health.  These diseases include West Nile virus, rabies, and Lyme disease.  Her current duties include collaborating with other state and federal agencies on zoonotic and vector-borne topics, updating surveillance information on the state’s Emerging Diseases website, presenting to public health, healthcare provider, student, and other audiences on the topic of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, and responding to the public on questions regarding these topics.

Ex-Officio Members

Kevin Eisenbeis
Director, Environmental Health and Safety

J.R. Haywood
Assistant Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

Theresa Kelley
Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

David Weismantel
University Physician, Olin Health Center


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