Frederick National Laboratory Celebrates 40 Years

By Ashley DeVine, Staff Writer
President Nixon at Ft. Detrick, MD.

President Richard Nixon visited Fort Detrick on October 19, 1971, to announce that the biological warfare facility would be converted into what we know today as the Frederick National Laboratory.

By Ashley DeVine, Staff Writer

Forty years ago, what we now call the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research was born. Here are some highlights in the facility’s history.

October 19, 1971 – President Richard Nixon announced that Fort Detrick would be converted from a biological warfare facility to a cancer research center (Covert, Norman M., Cutting Edge: A History of Fort Detrick, Maryland, 1943–1993, pp. 85–87).

June 26, 1972 – Litton Bionetics’ Frederick Operations Division opened the Frederick Cancer Research Center (FCRC) with a staff of 21 employees. Within three months, that number had grown to 193 (Frederick Cancer Research Center Bulletin, October 17, 1972).

1975 – The Basic Research Program was formed (The Poster, September 2004, p. 12). FCRC was designated a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (

1977 – The number of employees grew to 850 (Frederick Cancer Research Center: The First Five Years, 1972–1977).

Early 1980s – FCRC (especially Larry Arthur, Ph.D., former SAIC-Frederick chief executive officer) was instrumental in developing a blood test to protect the nation’s blood supply from HIV infection (News & Views, April 2010, p. 1).

December 1981 – FCRC became the Frederick Cancer Research Facility (FCRF; The Poster, December 2004, p. 17).

September 1982 – The contract was divided into five components: basic research, operations and technical support, animal production, computer services, and scientific library services (

1987 – Staff numbered more than 1,400 with a budget of nearly $100 million per year (The Poster, November 2003, p. 12). DMS became the new contractor for computer and statistical services (The Poster, March 2005, p. 15).

1990 – FCRF was renamed the NCI-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center (The Poster, June 2005, p. 13).

1993 – The Biopharmaceutical Development Program began to support prototype drugs, vaccines, and other therapies (NCI Cancer Bulletin, November 20, 2007, p. 3).

1995 – SAIC took over as operations and technical support contractor (

2001 – The facility’s name was changed to National Cancer Institute at Frederick.

2005 – Ligia Pinto, Ph.D., and staff in the HPV Immunology Laboratory developed a vaccine for cervical cancer that was tested in Phase III clinical trials (News & Views, January 2005, p. 1).

2006 – The Vaccine Pilot Plant opened (NCI Cancer Bulletin, November 20, 2007, p. 3).

2007 – NCI launched the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (The Poster, July 2007, p. 1).

August 2, 2011 – Patent issued for human monoclonal antibodies that may treat humans infected with the deadly Hendra and Nipah viruses. Dimiter Dimitrov, Ph.D., and Zhu Zhongyu, Ph.D., of the CCR Nanobiology Program were involved in research leading to this patent.

March 2012 – NCI-Frederick was renamed the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.