Joseph Kanabrocki, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Associate Vice President for Research Safety at the University of Chicago, has received the Arnold G. Wedum Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA-International), the world’s largest and oldest international biosafety professional society. The annual award, named after one of the founders of the field of biosafety, is given to a current ABSA member for outstanding contributions to biological safety accomplished through teaching, research, service, or leadership.
“I am honored to receive this prestigious award from ABSA and thank the many ABSA colleagues who have supported me throughout my career,” Kanabrocki said.
As Associate Vice President for Research Safety, Kanabrocki leads the University’s Office of Research Safety, and serves as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Select Agent Program Responsible Official for the University. Working closely with divisional research safety specialists, the University Environmental Health and Safety Office, the Animal Resources Center and, as appropriate, with Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory, he works to instill a culture that focuses on the health and well-being of all University personnel engaged in research activities. Kanabrocki also provides staff support to the Research Safety Policy Council and supports the UChicago Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) to assist in the development of standards and policies for review and approval.
Previously, he was Assistant Dean for Biosafety and Associate Professor of Microbiology at UChicago. In this capacity, he served as Select Agent Responsible Official, University Biosafety Officer, and director of the Biosafety programs at UChicago’s Ricketts Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research.
As a result of an NIH NIAID Centers of Excellence funding initiative, Kanabrocki established the world’s first post-doctoral training program designed to train post-graduate level scientists (Ph.D., M.D., D.V.M.) on how to manage biosafety programs at major academic, government, or industry-related research institutes. In addition to training 10 post-graduate scientists who now serve as biosafety officers at major academic and private research institutions, including UChicago, this initiative also supported an applied biosafety research program exploring basic research-related biosafety questions.
“This is a significant honor for Dr. Kanabrocki in recognition of his service to the field,” said Shabaana Khader, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at UChicago. “The University of Chicago is fortunate to have him and the years of leadership he brings to our biosafety programs.”
Kanabrocki has served as a voting member on several Federal biosafety and biosecurity advisory committees, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC, now named NExTRAC), the NIH National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB), the Advisory Committee to the CDC Director (CDC-ACD), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee on Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology, and the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) Poliovirus Containment Working Group (PCWG).
Kanabrocki is formerly the Director of Biological Safety/Biological Safety Officer, Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University in St. Louis. He served as the administrative officer for the Washington University Institutional Biological and Chemical Safety Committee (IBC) as well as the institution’s Responsible Official for the Select Agent Program. Prior to this appointment, he served as the Responsible Official and as Biosafety Officer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for eight years.