Steris and Versar team in terrorism battle

Hank Hogan

In the post-anthrax world, the most seemingly innocent of items—a letter from a school—can actually be deadly. In response to this changed reality, industry alliances have been created in this new battle against terrorism. A case in point is a recently-announced marketing agreement between Steris Corp. (Mentor, OH) and Versar, Inc. (Springfield, VA).

“This is going to be a partnership, or team effort, that will utilize each company's expertise,” says Kevin Marsh, senior director of communication services for Steris.

Versar is an engineering firm that was engaged in homeland defense long before September 11. The company is familiar with governmental regulations; comfortable with assessing threats of nuclear, biological, and chemical attack for both public and private concern; and runs an anthrax testing service and hotline. Steris, on the other hand, is best known for its infection prevention and decontamination capabilities in the context of pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare.

Among the Steris' technologies are low-temperature sterilization systems based on ethylene oxide and vaporized hydrogen peroxide. The company also provides contract sterilization services using gamma rays, ethylene oxide, or electron-beam-based technology.

For Versar, this breadth of biocontamination control technologies is an important, and previously missing part of the company's battle against biological threats.

“Steris gives us a new technology for decontamination, which has been a tough issue because up until recently the known technologies—formaldehyde, bleach or any of these—were very destructive,” explains Lawrence White, Versar's executive vice president.

For its part, Versar offers emergency response services, environmental decontamination and remediation, as well as expertise in biological warfare material and technology.

The company's sampling, analysis and personal protection are also suddenly proving very popular. Versar recently was called upon to supply nearly 300 totally encapsulating protective ensembles to the U.S. Marine Corps for use by the Marine's Chemical Biological Incident

Response Force (CBIRF). Versar also offers architectural and engineering services including vulnerability assessments, modeling and simulation, operations management and structural hardening.

The two companies complementary products, services and focus are the reason for the alliance, but it's not an exclusive arrangement. According to White, Versar partners with a number of companies, including engineering firms and insurance brokers. Marsh says that Steris is free to make other deals.

Exactly how Steris' technology and products will be put to use by Versar, and vice versa, is still somewhat up in the air. For his part, Marsh thinks it's too early in the process of product and service development to be getting into specifics. On the other hand, White indicates the situation is further along than that. In another nod to the post-attack world, White notes that not all results of this anti-anthrax alliance will be readily visible.


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