New biosafety level 4 lab breaks ground at UTMB, Galveston

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Aug 11, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Government officials and scientists yesterday recognized the formal opening of construction on a laboratory that will house research on the most dangerous emerging infectious diseases and potential bioterrorism agents.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is the site of the $167 million facility. Of the total 83,000-square-foot building, 12,362 square feet will be devoted to biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) research.

BSL-4 space is secure for work with "dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among BSL-4 safeguards are special air seals and air ducts to and from the lab, individual air supplies for researchers, required personal protection suits for workers, and numerous levels of security for entry. Such labs study diseases including anthrax, Ebola, SARS, and others.

The laboratory, expected to open in the summer of 2008, will be one of the most secure and sophisticated in the world, according to Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, who was on hand for the opening. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), was quoted in today's Galveston County Daily News as saying, "There are many, many threats, and we would not be able to respond to them without the kind of research that will take place in this laboratory."

Stanley Lemon, director of UTMB's Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, said in a UTMB press release,. "The Galveston National Laboratory is the first complex of its size and scope undertaken in the United States on an academic campus."

An educational symposium titled "Facing the Future: Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases" was held in conjunction with the opening. Presenters included Fauci; Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, University of Minnesota; Robert Webster, PhD, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis; Heinz Feldman, MD, PhD, Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health; and George Poste, DVM, PhD, Arizona State University. The NIH provided $110 million in grants for the facility.

See also:

UTMB Web site information on new lab
http://www.utmb.edu/gnl/

CDC/NIH information on BSL-4 laboratory standards
http://www.cdc.gov/od/ohs/biosfty/bmbl4/bmbl4toc.htm (see especially Section III)

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