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Antitheft for antibodies.

When you're working on something that might one stop cancer in its tracks, people take notice, including competitors and would-be competitors. That's why Abgenix, a small biotech firm based in Fremont, California, closely guards a proprietary technology used to develop human antibodies to fight such ravages as prostate and renal cancer.

In addition to securing its Fremont facilities from industrial spies, the company must also address good manufacturing practices imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, says Kathy Goelkel, the firm's senior manager of security. Under those rules, Abgenix must have specific standard operating procedures for various types of security, including surveillance and alarms. In addition, the sensitive equipment, as well as the delicate organisms it hosts, must also be closely monitored for environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.

The California campus originally consisted of an administrative building and a laboratory, which had separate access control systems, CCTV, and alarms. With plans to add an operations center and a manufacturing plant (both of which were up and running by early this year), management recognized the need to integrate security at all four facilities. The goal was to build security into the newest facilities at the design stage so that the system wouldn't be an afterthought.

Facing the demands of physical and information property protection, the FDA rules, environmental controls, and company expansion, Goelkel decided to create a master integrated system. She had previously considered an enterprisewide system, but that expense was not justifiable based on Abgenix's needs, says Goelkel. (The company has the option of making the system enterprisewide in the future.) With the integrated system, all security signals would be routed to the security operations center (SOC) in the new office building, where central station officers could oversee the systems.

On the recommendation of the ASIS International San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Goelkel turned to two security consultancies to perform the work. Tomasi-Dubois & Associates of Los Gatos, California, would do the initial design of the system, including writing equipment specifications and laying out the SOC. RFI Communications & Security of San Jose, California, would perform the actual system integration.

For the integration, Abgenix upgraded and expanded an existing Casi Rusco Secure Perfect access control/intrusion detection system (the access control system serves as an alarm system as well). That process, explains Greg Young, RFI's technical services manager, included upgrading the server hardware that hosts the access control database. For the existing buildings, all of the existing field hardware, including readers and panels, was used.

On the video front, Abgenix was able to keep its existing Pelco PTZ cameras as well as its assortment of fixed cameras from various manufacturers. Additional cameras were added for the new facilities. RFI also replaced the old analog video system with Kalatel digital video recorders, using many of the existing cameras and adding others.

On Tomasi-Dubois's recommendation, Abgenix acquired the Cameleon video management and display software system from 360 Surveillance of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. With this software, an officer can view all cameras as icons on a monitor. Changing camera views and features is a matter of dragging and clicking. Also along these lines, Abgenix took on a Pelco 9740 matrix switch to replace the existing, more limited multiplexers.

Because both Casi and Kalatel are pan of GE Interlogix, the access control/intrusion and CCTV systems were easily integratable. Less easT to integrate were intercoms that can be used to call the SOC at exterior access points. But that was achieved, says RFI's Young, and the intercoms are interfaced with the video system so that pushing the intercom button will call up the appropriate camera.

Before the integration, Abgenix had established security standards for its buildings based on best practices, including exactly where equipment would be placed. For example, the standards specify that a camera must be trained on every card reader located at a building entrance. A second fixed camera must be positioned to capture the face of the person who picks up an exterior phone to call into the SOC. The integrators followed these standards when they could.

While the integration generally went well, the environment posed several challenges, says Brad Wilson, senior vice president of RFI. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the risk of interfering with sensitive lab environments in which environmental conditions had to be tightly controlled. Young adds that RFI's workers had to "suit up" for the lab environments, which made precision work cumbersome. Another hurdle, says Young, was keeping the SOC online during all the wiring, installation, and testing.

Some issues have yet to be resolved. For example, says Young, the access control system links to the DVRs via their "control connection," the connection through which administrative changes to the DVR must he made, so the access control and video systems must be disconnected before such administrative changes can be made. Fortunately, says Goelkel, there is enough redundancy in the system, including local memory in the panels, so that no data are lost.

Although security was designed into the manufacturing plant from the outset, some initial miscommunication occurred between the builders and the security department. "No one thought to tell security until late in the process that we had interlocked doors" in some areas, says Goelkel. With interlocked doors, a second door won't open until a first door has been closed (called a "hard interlock"). In an emergency situation, that could mean that someone would get caught inside or that egress would be delayed. That had to be changed, which inflated the project's cost.

With future integration in mind, the same security systems have been installed in another company lab, located in Burnaby, British Columbia. That building is not currently integrated with the Fremont facilities, however. It's essentially a matter of getting enough bandwidth, Goelkel says.

In practice, the integrated system not only keeps equipment and information secure; it also furthers scientific discovery. For example, says Goelkel, security personnel monitor environmental alarms for scientists to ensure that research doesn't go awry. In some cases, incubators have malfunctioned, endangering the organisms inside, but the events triggered alarms, and operations center personnel contacted the facilities engineer and the scientist in charge of the specific project. As a result, the company's research teams have come to see security's added value, says Goelkel. "Once they've had an incident in which we've supported them appropriately," she says, scientists gain a better appreciation of security.

(For more information on RFI: John Nowak, business development manager, RFI Communications and Security; phone: 408/882-4237; e-mail: For more information on Tomasi-Dubois: Paul Dubois, executive director, Tomasi-Dubois & Associates; phone: 408/354-8787; e-mail:

Michael A. Gips, senior editor of Security Management
COPYRIGHT 2003 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:biotech security
Author:Gips, Michael A.
Publication:Security Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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