Mounting a defense, fighting pathogens to save lives

Mounting a defense, fighting pathogens to save lives

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Darrell Galloway
Courtesy Photo

Developing vaccines for life-threatening bacteria. Coordinating countermeasures for fast-moving viruses, like the H1N1 flu virus. And designing equipment to protect against chemical agents in warfare.

That’s all in a day’s work for Darrell R. Galloway ’73.

Galloway is a senior executive service member of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a Department of Defense organization that safeguards America and its allies from weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives). Galloway oversees one arm of the agency — the Chemical and Biological Technologies directorate — that handles medical and physical science research, technology, and equipment as it relates to chemical and biological threats.

“It’s really a broad area of undertaking,” Galloway says, explaining that the work covers everything from research into diseases and chemical agents to equipment and decontamination technology. His work, Galloway added, draws upon lessons from biology, biochemistry, immunology and infectious diseases.

One of the agency’s latest efforts, for instance, was a program to quickly respond to any unknown threat in biodefense. Galloway’s crew is currently testing methods — including the development of countermeasures in case a virus mutates or evolves — for the H1N1 virus.

“It’s a grand experiment,” he said, adding the response program “might be the biggest achievement of my life.”

As the director of the Chemical and Biological Technologies arm, Galloway is removed from the day-to-day research in microbiology and immunology that originally captivated and drove him to pursue a career in science. Instead, he manages more than 200 employees and farms out grants and research projects to academia, the biotech industry and other government agencies.

His role at the agency has a large, sweeping impact on the military, the country and the world, he said. He has worked at DTRA, since 2003 — after being recalled to active duty by the Navy following Sept. 11, 2001.

“A lot of people don’t realize that military medical research has produced quite a number of the things that have gone into the private sector,” he said. “The military is a world-based organization and we have people all over the world that we have to protect. There has been a long history of military medical research that has benefited the general public … (including) responses for yellow fever, enteric diseases, cholera, and malaria.”

Before joining DTRA, Galloway spent time as an active duty naval officer working in the field of vaccine development at the Navy Medical Research Institute.

He also worked for several years, while maintaining his military status in the reserves, as a professor in the Department of Microbiology at Ohio State University. During his tenure there, he mentored 12 doctoral students, launching them into their careers and as he says, “replacing myself many times over.” Galloway got his Ph.D., shortly after graduating from Cal State L.A., at the University of California, Riverside in 1978.

From his military service to his stint in academia and now, Galloway says his career has taken many twists and turns. His success, he says, has been in being enthusiastic, hardworking and ready for new opportunities — even those least expected.

That is, after all, how his career path in microbiology began at Cal State L.A. As a student, Galloway was unsure about his plans for the future until he was guided toward research by his professor.

“I think for many people, we are influenced by who we meet along the way,” Galloway said. “Dr. Dean Anderson, an old-time professor introduced me to microbiology, nudging me in that general direction.

“My family had expected me to go to medical school or something, and I recall Dr. Anderson having a conversation with me along the lines of ‘What do you want to do? Go and deliver babies or work on vaccines and save thousands of lives?’ Put like that, the idea of clinical medicine didn’t hold as much interest to me.”