In this installment of the Gain-of-Function Hall of Shame, we add fellow anthrax alumnus David R. Franz, now an adviser to EcoHealth Alliance, the coronavirus-hunting funder of the Wuhan Institute of Virology that we covered in our profile of Peter Daszak.
Franz is a retired army colonel who served at USAMRIID beginning in 1987. He was Chief of the Cardiorespiratory Toxicology Department (1987-1989), Chief of the Toxicology Division (1989-1992), Deputy Commander (1993-1995), and Commander (1995-1998).
His years as commander overlap with those of the covert biological weapons programs described in Judith Miller’s book Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, and he was a source for much of the information about them in the book. These included Projects Jefferson (the genetic engineering of vaccine-resistant anthrax, something the U.S. military had been doing since the 1980s), Clear Vision (the production of “biobomblets” that could be used to disperse anthrax), and Bite Size and Bacchus, or BACUS, Biotechnology Activity Characterization by Unconventional Signatures (the production of anthrax simulant outside the lab, as a terrorist cell might).