Elizabeth R Griffin died in 1997 as a result of an ocular exposure to a macaque (monkey) virus that occurred while she was a primate research worker at Yerkes Primate Research Center. Following Beth's tragic death, her family explored ways that they could prevent similar events from occurring yet still demonstrate strong support for safe and responsible research. After examining options, the family set about creating a 501c3 non-profit foundation that would have a mission that fit their aim. The Griffin family assimilated a board of directors with broad expertise and later contracted an executive director to assist the Foundation in achieving its mission.
Beginning in 2000, the Foundation established relationships with the Association of Primate Veterinarians and the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. The APV helped the Foundation develop and deliver professional education programs concerning non-human primates and also helped create Medical Alert Information Cards (health care notification) that are used throughout the world by people who work with macaques.
The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine assisted the Foundation in soliciting and reviewing grant applications aimed at research involving understanding and reducing risks of zoonotic diseases amongst people who worked with animals.
In 2001, the Foundation established relationships with the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) and the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR). The Foundation begins its work with AALAS encouraging and supporting essential biosafety training as a key ingredient to their professional training programs and financially assisted ILAR in its grant to publish the manual, The Care and Use of Laboratory Animals manual.
Following the anthrax letters incident in the US in 2001 and the SARS outbreak of 2002, the Foundation found itself in the forefront of promoting safe research in environments beyond non-human primates and other laboratory animals. Because the Foundation had already been working with some leading institutions and organizations in the biomedical research arena, it responded to requests for greater advocacy of biosafety awareness and training as national and international research capacity greatly expanded.
In this new role, the Foundation developed a strong relationship with the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA). The Foundation provides significant support to ABSA for research grants and other educational programs including the Elizabeth R Griffin lecture at each year’s ABSA conference. ABSA is the Foundation principal partner. The Foundation and ABSA also work together sponsoring an annual Leadership Institute for Biosafety Professionals.
The Foundation works with a number of other biosafety / biosecurity related programs. The Foundation is an ongoing sponsor of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Training held each July in Ft Collins, CO. The Foundation has been represented by its executive director on the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP) at the National Institutes of Health, the transition board of the International Federation of Biosafety Associations and the International Centre for Infectious Diseases.
The Foundation works with USDA-ARS in developing their international biosafety symposia and also provides instructional support to Emory University’s OnSite Biosafety Training Program and to numerous other biosafety and biosecurity related training events around the world.
The Foundation began project management for biosafety / biosecurity related programs in 2009. In line with its initial goals, the Foundation provides these services at minimal costs to maximize the intent of the programs.
The Foundation collaborates with a number of science-based organizations to focus on prevention through high-quality biosafety training, research involving biological exposures, and support for occupational health awareness and improvement.
Beyond B Virus
In our initial B virus outreach program, the Foundation determined it could best serve the global research community by becoming more involved in the realm of zoonotic diseases beyond B virus. In doing this, we soon found ourselves with a unique opportunity to work with both animal and human health organizations promoting safe work practices, biosecurity, and collaboration amongst the organizations and institutions.
In working with a number of unique research communities, we next found ourselves involved with the rapidly growing number of high containment research facilities and other facilities working in the areas of emerging infectious diseases amongst humans and animals, biodefense programs, and clinical laboratories. Again, because we are relatively unhindered by bureaucracy, our ability to mobilize resources and establish points-of-contacts within the research community often proved invaluable.
Although the Foundation has evolved well beyond its original focus on the macaque-borne B-virus, we remain committed to programs that continue to provide information, presentations, and development of prevention/treatment/information networks that support organizations, institutions, and people who work with macaques.
The Foundation & Animal Welfare
The Foundation is committed to encouraging and supporting the humane care and use of animals in research. We recognize not only that there are no real alternatives to animal research in existence, but also that much research involving animals is aimed at improving the lives of animals.
The Foundation views animal welfare as both a moral obligation and an essential ingredient in worker safety. We encourage that all animal research be conducted in AAALAC accredited facilities and adherence to recognized international guidelines on the care and use of animals.