UW professor banned from laboratory for unauthorized brucellosis research; federal agents fine university for lack of training

May 13, 2010
Madison, Wis. -- A 32-year veteran of high-risk research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has been suspended from working on any projects above Level 1 biosecurity clearance after unauthorized experiments on an antibiotic-resistant strain of brucellosis were discovered.

The suspension of laboratory privileges for Dr. Gary Splitter, DVM, PhD, followed a $40,000 fine against the university for not properly training faculty, staff and students on new federal regulations governing research.

Dr. Bill Mellon, PhD, UW-Madison’s associate dean for research policy and the school’s responsible officer for its select agent program, says Splitter claimed to not know the research in question was being conducted in his lab — despite evidence of the contrary contained in e-mails to a graduate student conducting the experiments. But not knowing about the experiments also would have been unacceptable, Mellon says — especially at that level of biosecurity clearance.

"Even if he didn’t know what a graduate student was doing, that was his responsibility to make sure ... they knew what their responsibilities were," Mellon says.

The $40,000 fine levied against the university was a result of the school’s failure to host training programs, not the experiments being conducted in the lab.

The decision to suspend Splitter’s laboratory privileges was an agreement reached by the doctor and the university. Splitter remains on staff at the school as a professor.