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National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 30, 2003


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NIAID Funds Construction of Biosafety Laboratories

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced funding for the construction of two National Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs) and nine Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBLs). “These awards to build high-level biosafety facilities are a major step towards being able to provide Americans with effective therapies, vaccines and diagnostics for diseases caused by agents of bioterror as well as for naturally occurring emerging infections such as SARS and West Nile virus,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

One-time grants of approximately $120 million each will fund construction of the NBLs, while the RBLs will receive one-time grants of between $7 and $21 million each in construction funds. Each institution is also required to provide matching funds.

Institution (Location) Construction Location Principal Investigator
NBLs    
Boston University Boston University Medical Center Mark Klempner, M.D.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Stanley Lemon, M.D.
     
RBLs    
Colorado State University (Fort Collins) Foothills Campus, Fort Collins, CO Anthony Frank, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Duke University (Durham) Duke University Medical Center R.S. Williams, M.D.
Tulane University (New Orleans) Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, LA Paul Whelton, M.D., B.Ch., B.A.O.
University of Alabama at Birmingham University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine Richard Marchase, Ph.D.
University of Chicago Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL Thomas Rosenbaum, Ph.D.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Newark) University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Russell Joffe, M.B., B.Ch.
University of Missouri (Columbia) University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine Joe Kornegay, D.V.M., Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh Arthur Levine, M.D.
University of Tennessee (Memphis) University of Tennessee Health Science Center Michael Dockter, Ph.D.

In February 2002, an outside panel of experts provided guidance to NIAID on its biodefense research agenda and identified the insufficient amount of biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) and BSL-4 lab space as a significant barrier to progress.

“With input from the scientific community, we have crafted a biodefense research agenda emphasizing rapid translation of basic findings into real products,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. “Although the agenda is ambitious, America’s scientists have the commitment, creativity and energy equal to the task. The new laboratories will give these dedicated scientists space to conduct this critical research, and equally important, they will be able to conduct it safely.”

The overall objective of the NBL construction program is to provide funding to design, construct and commission comprehensive, state-of-the-art BSL-4, BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratories, as well as associated research and administrative support space; the RBL construction program will provide funding for similar facilities containing BSL-3 and BSL-2 labs. The BSL labs will be designed and built using the strictest federal standards, incorporating special engineering and design features to prevent microorganisms from being released into the environment. Numerous safety and decontamination features provide multiple layers of protection for lab workers and the surrounding environment.

The NBL and RBL sites were selected based on multiple factors, but primarily on the scientific and technical merit of the applications as assessed by peer review and on the applicant’s ability to contribute to the overall NIAID biodefense research agenda. The NBLs and RBLs will complement and support the research activities of NIAID’s recently awarded Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (see http://www.niaid.nih.gov/newsroom/releases/HHS_RCE.htm). The biosafety labs also will be available and prepared to assist national, state and local public health efforts in the event of a bioterrorism or infectious disease emergency.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

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Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.


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