ARL, Huck join to support partner research in global health security

Penn State’s biosecurity research spans the globe, including the ecosystems of Tanzania, where Peter Hudson, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and researcher with the Bushmeat Biosecurity Research Group, captured this photo of an olive baboon. Credit: Peter Hudson, / Photo used with permissionAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Building on the University’s expertise in interdisciplinary biological, global health and defense-related research, Penn State has launched the Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Laboratory (ABRL).

ABRL is a university-wide center and a new business unit formed under a joint venture between the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences (Huck) and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL). ABRL’s mission is to advance global health security by bringing translational scientific solutions to capacity-building missions and collaborative research projects with the aim of proactively identifying and mitigating health threats around the world, including naturally emerging infectious diseases and man-made threats. 

Amid continuing global health events such as the 2002 SARS outbreak, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, or the near-annual bird and swine flu threats, health organizations and governments now recognize that emerging infectious diseases present a growing threat to global health and security in a tightly interconnected world. ABRL’s programs are currently built around four areas of focus: community engagements driving health security; understanding pathogen dynamics and creating sustainable interventions; fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR); and innovating biomedical engineering for health security. Programs will support mitigating the global threat of infectious disease through educational programs, research, and the transfer of technological innovations into solutions that can be deployed by stakeholders ranging from communities to national security organizations.

Kay van der Horst will serve as the director of ABRL; he comes to Penn State from MRI Global, where he served for more than 7 years in positions including vice president of Global Engagement – Health Security, Diagnostics and Detection, as well as vice president of National Security and Defense Programs. Van der Horst brings to Penn State nearly three decades of professional history and experience developing and executing complex global health security, cooperative engagement, threat reduction and national security programs. Prior to MRI Global he served in executive positions at SAIC (now Leidos.)

"Although our exploratory and startup operations only began six months ago, we have already won new health security programs in India and Africa, formed exciting and innovative partnerships with a wide range of interdisciplinary faculty, and have undertaken joint proposal projects with the National Institutes of Health, DARPA and other global agencies," van der Horst said. "For example, in Lima, Peru, we are leveraging a strong partnership with U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 6 to jointly develop bio-surveillance, health intervention and technology innovation strategies. ABRL will support postdoctoral research in these areas, in Lima."

Global areas of focus have included South America, India and southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S.

"Penn State has been deeply involved in defense research for more than 70 years," said Neil Sharkey, vice president for research, "it therefore is natural that we begin to apply the world-renowned expertise developed within the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences to national health security and defense."

The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences is an internationally recognized leader in infectious disease and genomics research and offers state-of-the-art research instrumentation available to both researchers and external partners. Huck staff have developed strong international collaborations in animal, human and ecological health sciences, and the institute is supported by a variety of funders, including the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

More information on ABRL is available at

Kay van der Horst, Director, Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Laboratory (ABRL). Credit: Kay van der HorstAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated April 06, 2018