Animal Models of Disease—Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick

Developing, characterizing, and refining animal models are key to advancing medical countermeasures for high-consequence pathogens. Animal models often provide the only opportunity to gain critical insights and to develop clinical algorithms for effectively managing patients or providing a regulatory pathway for product licensure. Model development at the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF‑Frederick) draws on the availability of animal biosafety level 4 (ABSL-4) laboratories; sophisticated medical imaging equipment; aerosol capabilities; and virology, pathology, molecular biology, and immunology expertise.

The IRF-Frederick has established animal models for the widely used routes of exposure for small animals and nonhuman primate models. Unique to the IRF-Frederick is the ability to generate small-, medium-, or large-particle aerosols for small animals and nonhuman primates. In addition, the facility has demonstrated proficiency with telemetry, tethered animals with in-dwelling catheters, natural history studies, sequential sampling studies, therapeutic intervention, vaccine efficacy, and studies using a variety of imaging techniques and radiotracers. As needed, these capabilities can be mixed with other core proficiencies to meet the needs of any given study. Repositories of samples and images have been and are continually being generated to examine common threads of pathogenesis for multiple agents and to explore cutting-edge technologies on archival samples.

Main Areas of Focus

  • Develop animal models of disease using high-consequence viral pathogens that accurately recapitulate human disease to the greatest extent possible
  • Develop animal models suitable for evaluating candidate medical countermeasures
  • Develop animal models that reflect viral persistence and/or disease seen in human survivors of infections with high-consequence pathogens

Support Services

  • Proficiency with multiple exposure routes including aerosol and bronchoscope-directed pulmonary inoculation and intracranial inoculation
  • Proficiency with telemetry, tethered animals with in-dwelling catheters
  • Natural history, pathogenesis, and sequential sampling studies
  • Prophylactic (vaccine) and therapeutic treatment studies using a variety of imaging techniques and labeled probes
  • Whole-body imaging of animal models at BSL-4 containment


  • Development, refinement, and characterization of rodent to nonhuman primate animal models of high-consequence viral pathogens
  • Repositories of samples and images
  • In-house medical imaging facility


All procedures are well-documented and adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), methods, or study-approved plans and agreements.

Collaboration Opportunities

  • Studies relevant to human disease
  • Use of surrogate systems to test clinical hypotheses
  • Use of biological systems to answer questions regarding disease pathogenesis and strategies for intervention including antimicrobials, vaccines, and other countermeasures
  • Developing and incorporating cutting-edge technologies to understand infectious diseases

Read more about how to work with the IRF-Frederick.


Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF-Frederick)

Contact Information

Marisa St. Claire, D.V.M., M.S., Diplomate ACLAM
Chief Veterinarian