Persian Type Culture Collection

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Last Updated: August 1, 2008
Other Name: PTCC
Location: Tehran, Iran
Subordinate To: The Biotechnology Institute of IROST
Size: Maintains over 800 cultures of bacteria and fungi.
Facility Status:

The PTCC was established in 1980. IROST works with the United Nations on various biotechnology projects.

There are no known accusations that IROST or the PTCC are connected in anyway with biological weapons. However, the PTCC does maintain a significant collection of bacteria and fungi that could be used in a biological warfare (BW) program. For instance, the PTCC maintains cultures of Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis—both of which have been weaponized by other countries in the past. The PTCC also maintains cultures of Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Salmonella paratyphi, Vibrio cholarae, Yersinia enterocolitica, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella dysenteriae, Shigella boydii, Shigella blexneri, and Cryptococcus neoformans. While it is possible that these pathogens could be weaponized, they have not been the focus of BW programs in other countries in the past. Finally, the PTCC maintains cultures of Bacillus subtilis, Serratia marcescens, and Bacillus thuringiensis. While these agents are not dangerous to humans, they have been used in bioweapons programs in other countries in the past to simulate biological weapons. For instance, B. thuringiensis is very similar to B. anthracis and has been used by other countries to perfect the equipment and techniques necessary to produce and disseminate it. The first project undertaken by IROST appears to have been the cultivation, pilot production, and dissemination of B. thuringiensis. The technologies used for this project would have been directly applicable to the cultivation, production, and dissemination of B. anthracis.

In addition to these programs, the Agricultural Biotechnology department also has conducted significant research on species of Fusarium, fungi that attack wheat crops and produce T-2 and other trichothecene mycotoxins. In 1988 and 1989, Iranian scientists contacted Canadian and Dutch research institutes in an effort to purchase strains of fusaria. These efforts were blocked by the Canadian and Dutch governments for fear that Iran may have planned on using the fungi to develop T-2 mycotoxin for a BW program. [1] In the years following these attempts, Russian and U.S. intelligence speculated that Iran maintained an active BW program focused on the development of mycotoxins. [2] However, it is unclear if these speculations were solely an extrapolation from the 1989 Canadian and Dutch purchase attempts or if the allegations rely on other classified intelligence. Regardless of the allegations, the fusaria research conducted by the Agricultural Biotechnology department appears to be completely benign.

[1] Don Sutton, "Harmful Fungi Requested by Iranian, Scientist Says," Globe and Mail (Toronto), 14 August 1989, p. A1.
[2] "Iran's Mustard and Nerve Gas," Jane's Foreign Report, 20 May 1993, volume/issue: 000/2256.

[1] IROST,
[2] The Biotechnology Institute of IROST,
[3] The Persian Type Culture Collection,
[4] Don Sutton, "Harmful Fungi Requested by Iranian, Scientist Says," Globe and Mail (Toronto), 14 August 1989, p. A1.
[5] "Iran's Mustard and Nerve Gas," Jane's Foreign Report, 20 May 1993, volume/issue: 000/2256.
[6] "Clerical Regime's Quest for Biological Weapons & Germs Arsenal," Remarks to the Press by Soona Samsami, US Representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, 26 January 1999, p. 2.
[7] "Magazine Outlines Biotechnology Research Centers in Iran," Ettela'at-e Elmi (Tehran), 14 May 2001, in FBIS Document IAP20010514000001, 15 May 2001.
[8] Gudio Olimpio, "Khatami to Visit Rome on European Mission," Corriere della Sera (internet version), 4 February 1999; in "Italian Daily Cites MKO Report on Iran's CBW Program," FBIS Document FTS19990204000672.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.