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You are here:  HOME  >  About AFRRI


Jump to:  Leadership | Training, emergency response mission | Research, development goals | Resources

Col L. Andrew Huff, AFRRI Director

AFRRI Director
L. Andrew Huff

Dr. Mark H. Whitnall, AFRRI Scientific Advisor

Scientific Advisor
Mark H. Whitnall, PhD

The unique resources of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute enable advancements in the protection of soldiers and citizens. The AFRRI mission is to preserve the health and performance of U.S. military personnel and to protect humankind through research that advances understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation.

To these ends, the institute collaborates with other government facilities, academic institutions, and civilian laboratories in the United States and other countries to research the biological effects of ionizing radiation. In addition, it provides medical training and emergency response to manage incidents related to radiation exposure.

Congress approved the construction of the AFRRI facility on June 8, 1960; ground was broken on November 29 that year. The institute was formally established as a joint agency of the three military departments on May 12, 1961, and has operated continuously since 1962.

AFRRI, an institute of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, is located on the grounds of the Naval Support Activity Bethesda, also home to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

  • AFRRI Director: L. Andrew Huff, Col, USAF, MC, SFS
  • Deputy Director: David R. Lesser, CAPT, MSC, USN
  • Chief of Staff: Thomas S. Wieczorek, LTC, MS, USA
  • Deputy Chief of Staff: Brandon S. Hermansen, LT, MSC, USN
  • Scientific Advisor: Mark H. Whitnall, PhD
  • Head, Military Medical Operations: Neil E. Page, COL, MC, USA
  • Heads, Scientific Research:
    Oswald L. Johnson, Lt Col, USAF, BSC | Lee D. Hoey, CDR, USN, MS
  • Head, Facility Management: Thomas S. Wieczorek, LTC, MS, USA
  • Head, Radiation Sciences: Steve I. Miller 
  • Head, Veterinary Sciences: Mark G. Chappell, LTC, VC, USA
  • Head, Administration: Brandon S. Hermansen, LT, MSC, USN
  • Chief of Finance: Latrice Key, CPT, FC, USA
Training and emergency response mission
  • Present the postgraduate Medical Effects of Ionizing Radiation Course to military and civilian health-care providers, disaster preparedness personnel and operational planners; provide information on the biomedical consequences of radiation exposure, how the effects can be reduced
  • Make medical guidance readily available through print and digital information products, exposure assessment software, and medical data collection forms
  • Activate the Medical Radiobiology Advisory Team, with the approval of the DoD, in response to federal, state, and local entities in the event of radiological crises and consequence management missions
Research and development goals
  • Pursue new drugs that will prevent the life-threatening and health-degrading effects of ionizing radiation and move those drugs from discovery through the Food and Drug Administration approval process
  • Develop methods of rapidly assessing radiation exposure to assure appropriate medical treatment
  • Investigate the effects of radiation injury combined with other challenges such as trauma, disease, and chemical exposures
  • Contribute to the knowledge base that is useful in understanding, for example, the effects of space radiation on astronauts

AFRRI research to develop drugs and medical procedures to protect against or mitigate the effects of ionizing radiation is performed whenever possible by using tissue cultures. When an animal model is the only means of simulating the effects in humans, research is conducted in accordance with the principles in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals prepared by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources, National Research Council. Such research, using special strains of laboratory mice, is overseen by the AFRRI Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The AFRRI facility is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.

Three facilities are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They include the Mark-F TRIGA research reactor, which has been used since 1962 and is the United States’ sole remaining reactor dedicated to radiobiology studies. It is similar to reactors at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

  • Mark-F TRIGA research reactor: Runs at a steady state of 1 megawatt or in pulses of up to 2,500 megawatts occurring in about 0.1 second. Passive control features of the moveable core and its fuel elements make the reactor inherently safe. Primarily for biological studies, it is used also for TREE (transient radiation electronic effects) studies and the production of isotopes
  • Cobalt-60 low-level irradiation facility: Delivers chronic radiation doses to biological samples to study early and late effects