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APHIS Leadership

Michael J. Firko, Ph.D.

Dr. FirkoDr. Firko was appointed Deputy Administrator for Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) in April 2014.  In this position, he provides leadership and direction to ensure the safe development and introduction (importation, interstate movement, and field testing) of genetically engineered organisms.

Dr. Firko’s USDA career spans more than 26 years, most of which he spent at APHIS, along with several years at the Agricultural Research Service.  In fact, Dr. Firko first joined APHIS to work for Biotechnology, Biologics and Environmental Protection—the predecessor to BRS.  The majority of Dr. Firko’s APHIS career, however, has been with our Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program where he served in a number of leadership positions. 

As APHIS’ Executive Sponsor for ePermits, Dr. Firko led the Agency’s transition to an on-line, electronic permitting system.  He also led the creation of PPQ’s Remote Pest ID system, which uses digital images to help identify intercepted pests and expedite cargo clearance.  In addition, Mike led PPQ’s Plant Pest Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, the National Plant Pest Identification Services, and the Plant Germplasm Quarantine program.  Following the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Firko helped create and subsequently led the Federal Select Agent Program until his move to BRS in 2011. 

Dr. Firko joined BRS as the Acting Associate Deputy Administrator in July 2011, and was officially named to that position in March 2012.  A little more than a year later, in May 2013, he was asked to serve as BRS’ Acting Deputy Administrator.  In addition to his BRS responsibilities, Dr. Firko currently serves on USDA’s Science Council as the Marketing and Regulatory Program’s mission area representative, In that role he facilitates and supports cross-Department coordination and collaboration of science-related activities. 
Dr. Firko received his Doctorate degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.
Dr. Firko was born in New Jersey, and has lived and worked in Colorado, Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, and Maryland.

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