Whitney provides biosafety leadership to The Texas A&M University System’s eleven universities, Health Science Center, and eight state agencies.
He has more than thirty years of experience in the field of biosafety and the safe conduct of research with infectious agents, including those with the potential to pose a severe threat to public, animal or plant health (select agents). This experience includes the design and operation of high-containment laboratories.
Whitney has extensive national and international experience conducting risk assessments for, and implementing mitigations to, the hazards associated with infectious agent research and novel infectious agent outbreaks. This experience was shaped in large part by his presence at the hospital in Hong Kong during the time it had the first cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection in humans and when one of the first patients with SARS-coronavirus in Hong Kong was admitted, which led to more than one hundred medical and nursing staff becoming infected with the then-unidentified agent.
Whitney joined Texas A&M University as the responsible official and biological safety officer and was appointed associate vice president for research compliance before moving to the A&M System.
Prior to coming to Texas A&M, he was a senior biosafety and outreach specialist in the Office of Biotechnology Activities (OBA) at the National Institutes of Health, the federal office at that time responsible for oversight of safety practices and containment procedures for research involving recombinant nucleic acid molecules, including the creation and use of organisms and viruses containing recombinant nucleic acid molecules.
While at OBA, Whitney assisted in the development of national and regional programs of education and outreach relevant to biosafety and the oversight of recombinant DNA research. He advised on all aspects of biosafety issues and participated in the development of numerous US government biosafety and biosecurity policies with an emphasis on high containment, dual use, and occupational health issues.
Prior to working at OBA, Whitney was a biosafety officer at the University of Washington in Seattle where he was primarily concerned with select agent and high containment issues.
Whitney conducted infections disease and cancer research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (School of Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital). While in Hong Kong, he participated in the response to the 2003 SARs outbreak.
He completed postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston after obtaining his doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of Arkansas.