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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has selected Texas A&M AgriLife to lead the consortium behind a new Center of Excellence for cross-border threat screening and supply chain defense.

DHS announce on Monday that Texas A&M University was chosen to spearhead the teaming of academic, industry, government and laboratory partners. The directorate awarded a $3.85 million for the Center of Excellence's first operating year of a 10-year grant program.

Each Center of Excellence is led by a U.S. college or university alongside multiple partners and focuses on specific high-priority DHS challenges. The cross-border threat screening and supply chain defense center will research and develop solutions for "unknown biological threats to the nation's people, agriculture and economy."

"This center will deliver relevant technology and analytics to support [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] in securing the trillions of dollars of trade and millions of travelers that enter the United States each year," U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in the announcement. "We look forward to working with Texas A&M and the Center of Excellence as we explore new technologies to better facilitate safe and secure trade and travel."

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said in a press release Tuesday that the System looks forward to using its expertise across many disciplines "to deliver new, innovative technologies to reduce the risk of biological threat introduction across U.S. borders."

According to the announcement from Texas A&M AgriLife about its selection, project partners will include the Texas A&M AgriLife Research-Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, the Texas A&M School of Public Health, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas A&M Galveston and the Texas Transportation Institute.

Other partners include the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, University of Washington, IBM Research, Quidel, Host Response and SunQ.

Vice Chancellor for Agriculture and Life Sciences Patrick Stover said in the release that AgriLife is "well positioned to lead this effort to deliver solutions to help secure the nation without compromising the pace and operational structures of commercial enterprises."

Research will be focused on technologies detecting biological threats moving through global supply chains, data integration and analytics to support threat detection and methods to minimize risks to DHS operations. The new Center of Excellence also will train and educate a workforce to prepare for and respond to current and emerging biological threats.

"This is the first time DHS has awarded a new Center of Excellence to an emeritus university," Melissa Berquist, director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, said in the AgriLife announcement. "Drawing on 13 years of experience and lessons learned will allow [the center] to deliver agile, responsive and innovative solutions for DHS needs as a 'think tank' for research and workforce development solutions across the homeland security enterprise."

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