About the LRN

The LRN is the nation's laboratory emergency response system for biological, chemical and radiological threats and other public emergencies such as natural disasters. Founded in 1999 by APHL, CDC and the FBI to improve US readiness for bioterrorism, the LRN remains a valuable resource for law enforcement and public health officials. It links local, state and federal public health laboratories with sentinel clinical, food, veterinary, environmental and agricultural laboratories; and military and international laboratory centers.

Over time, the US Department of Defense has become an LRN stakeholder, joining in strategic planning and supporting LRN biological response activities, notably the 2014 response to the outbreak of Ebola.

APHL Continues to Support the LRN

APHL supports the LRN through training, quality improvement initiatives, surge capacity and exercise planning, policy development and fostering of partnerships. The association supports the following activities:

  • Plans and convenes the biennial LRN National Meeting to provide LRN stakeholders with current information on preparedness collaborations and emerging technologies, share model practices, discuss solutions to ongoing challenges, address training needs and explore the future of the LRN to stay ahead of threats

  • Assists in planning the biannual LRN Conventional Methods courses, training 32 laboratorians per year in classical microbiological detection techniques

  • Assists laboratories in equipment procurement for various multi-center validation studies to improve technology in the LRN

  • Convenes biannual in-person meetings of the LRN Operational Workgroup and the LRN Joint Leadership Committee to discuss strategic planning and operations.

LRN-B: Laboratory Response Network for Biological ThreatsLRN-B Pyramid

The Laboratory Response Network for Biological Threats (LRN-B) is organized as a tiered pyramid of sentinel clinical, reference and national laboratories. These laboratories are integrated into a single network for rapid detection and response to threats. In 2014, the reference tier was further categorized into reference, standard and advanced laboratories based on capabilities. This reconfiguration:

  • Further standardized testing capabilities

  • Supported quality improvements initiatives

  • Improved flexibility

  • Expanded existing capabilities for biothreat agent and emerging infectious disease testing

Learn more about the impact and successes of the LRN-B.

LRN-C: Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats

The Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats (LRN-C), the chemical component of the Laboratory Response Network, was established in 1999 to prepare and respond to chemical threats. The LRN-C links 54 state and local public health laboratories across the US and its territories. These laboratories operate at three levels that indicate their ability to perform various functions during emergency events:

  • Level 3 laboratories work with hospitals and first responders to collect, package and ship human samples to other laboratories for confirmatory testing.

  • Level 2 laboratories test the samples referred from Level 3 laboratories for toxic chemicals and metals.

  • Level 1 laboratories are able to test chemical warfare agents and to help the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) test human samples during large-scale emergencies

To learn more about how APHL supports the LRN-C, visit Emergency Response (aphl.org)

Federal Investment in LRN

In the years following the LRN’s founding, significant federal and state investment in public health preparedness strengthened laboratory capability and capacity to respond to health threats, both man-made and naturally occurring. This investment proved invaluable in responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and other natural disasters. It also readied public health laboratories to respond to the nationwide outbreak of 2009 H1N1 influenza and to emerging diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola.

For more information, contact Rana Rahmat, MPH, specialist, Laboratory Response Network at rana.rahmat@aphl.org​ or 240.485.2763.

The LRN Recently Celebrated 20 Years!

2019 marked 20 years since the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) was formed. The network is known for its responses to all threats — from anthrax to Zika — with both its biological and chemical components playing a key role in keeping the public safe. For example, the LRN for Chemical Threats Preparedness (LRN-C) is currently being leveraged to respond to the opioid epidemic in the US.

Learn more about the LRN's impact over the last 20 years