UManitoba lab featured on WikiLeaks

Lab produces bioterrorism antidotes for U.S.

A pharmaceutical lab located at the University of Manitoba was featured in a recent WikiLeaks posting that listed facilities the United States considers vital to its security. The lab, owned by private biopharmaceutical company Cangene, produces antidotes for potential bioterrorism threats for the United States, some of which could defend against anthrax and botulism.

The list was part of the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative of the United States Department of Homeland Security discussed in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks over the weekend.

Wayne Boone, a former military police officer who teaches at Carleton university, told the Montreal Gazette that the latest WikiLeaks posting has thrown organizations that enjoyed “security through obscurity” into the spotlight of potential attackers, and recommended “enhanced vigilance” at these sites. This doesn’t mean new, expensive security measures need to be put into place  “in the absence of a clearly defined threat,” Boone explained.

Boone said he found it interesting that along with the “usual suspects” such as dams, bridges, and points of entry, the list of sites also revealed several scientific facilities that wouldn’t so obviously be considered important to U.S. security. “These organizations and these companies may have been under the radar of your average adversary, and now they’re right up in the shop window,” he said.

Other Canadian facilities named in the cables include the Chalk River Laboratories nuclear research facility and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Quebec, among several others.

The partnership between the U of M and Cangene  won a Synergy Award for Innovation from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in 2004. The prize is given annually to award examples of effective collaborations between universities and industry leaders.

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