A former student at the University of Texas allegedly stole multiple vials and plastic droppers from a UT laboratory, including a harmless strain of the bioterrorism agent ricin.
Karl Jasheway was charged with driving while intoxicated on December 21. While searching the car, the arresting officer found a box addressed to the university containing 13 vials, 12 plastic droppers and a notebook. The discovery led to the seizure of 44 measuring tubes from Jasheway’s apartment in North Austin, Statesman.com reports.
Despite concerns that the materials stolen were related to terrorism, Austin campus officials said that the searches revealed no dangerous materials in Jasheway’s apartment or car. Two of the vials contained ricin A-chain DNA, which is a harmless substance. While the potent toxin ricin is a bioterrorism concern, the non-toxic A-chain component is used by the lab to search for possible antidotes to ricin. Jasheway was the lead author of a scientific paper on the ricin antidote subject.
The lab has not used the toxic form of ricin in research for 25 years. The lab materials theft led to tightened lab safety and security rules.
Jasheway allowed police to search his apartment without a warrant. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was underway and Jasheway was not available for comment, according to Statesman.com.