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UW Professors: Accused Anthrax Killer Couldn’t Have Done It


October 7, 2011 — Colleagues of accused anthrax killer Bruce Ivins say evidence from the laboratory clearly demonstrates that Ivins could not have committed the crime.

Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, now an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming Department of Veterinary Medicine and a researcher at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory, will appear on the new PBS Frontline special "The Anthrax Files." The show is scheduled to air Tuesday, Oct. 11. Check local listings for times and channels.

Adamovicz and UW Professor Gerry Andrews both worked in 2001 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Md., where, according to the FBI, Ivins produced the anthrax used to commit the "country's most notorious act of bioterrorism."  

The Frontline report focuses on the FBI's investigation into the 2001 rash of anthrax letters sent to media outlets and public officials at numerous U.S. locations.  Coming so soon after the unforgettable events of 9/11, the anthrax scare caused a panic. Envelopes carrying deadly anthrax were delivered to U.S. Senate offices and network news divisions. Five people died and many more were infected before the attacks stopped.

Seven years later, after mistakenly pursuing one suspect, the most expensive and complex investigation ever undertaken by the FBI ended when Ivins was identified as the sole perpetrator of the attacks. The FBI made its announcement after Ivins had taken his own life.

But questions about the case continue. Earlier this year, a National Academy of Sciences panel raised doubts about the FBI's scientific conclusions. And many of Ivins' colleagues, including Adamovicz and Andrews, insist the FBI got the wrong man.

"The scientific evidence clearly shows that the (anthrax) wasn't produced in our laboratory (USAMRIID)," the two UW professors say. "The FBI based part of its case on unusual activity that took place in our lab for one week. There is no way he could produce that amount of spores in our lab during that time."

Other independent laboratories couldn't produce anthrax under similar lab conditions, and the FBI could not recreate the attack strain, Adamovicz says.

"The FBI's own evidence suggested a more advanced laboratory produced it," he says.

At UW, Adamovicz and Andrews are both working to develop a new vaccine for the livestock and wildlife disease brucellosis. They hold a patent for a therapeutic protein known as a monoclonal antibody that treats plague.

UW Photo
University of Wyoming assistant professor Jeffrey Adamovicz will appear Tuesday, Oct. 11, on PBS Frontline.

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