In September, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced that it had awarded multimillion-dollar grants to 11 universities to build special biosafety laboratories for infectious disease research.
Of those selected, two have connections to veterinary medicine: the University of Missouri-Columbia and Colorado State University.
Early last year, a panel of experts informed the NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health, that a national lack of biosafety laboratories posed a significant barrier to biodefense research. As a result, the NIAID is funding construction of two National Biocontainment Laboratories and nine Regional Biocontainment Laboratories.
Missouri and Colorado universities received grants totalling $6.8 million and $22.1 million, respectively, to build biosafety level 3 laboratories.
BSL-3 facilities are necessary for conducting clinical, diagnostic, teaching, or research with indigenous or exotic pathogens that can cause serious or lethal disease. Only BSL-4 facilities have a greater degree of safeguards and are used when handling the most dangerous materials.
"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 severe acute respiratory syndrome and West Nile virus," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
One reason Missouri was selected was because of the university's collaboration between veterinary and human medicine in studying zoonotic pathogens. Terrorists could conceivably introduce such agents into the human population by first infecting livestock.
The 35,000-square-foot facility will be located near Missouri's Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Construction is expected to start in 2005 and be completed early in 2007.
Dr. Steven Kleiboeker, assistant professor of pathobiology and a former scientist at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, will be facility manager of Missouri's BSL-3 laboratory.
At Colorado State, the NIAID grant will fund construction of a 33,850-square-foot laboratory, expanding infectious disease research at the university's Foothills Research Campus.
The new laboratory will complement similar research already under way at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at the university's Bioenvironmental Hazards Research Building and its Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory.
"Taken as a whole, there really is no better site in the nation for this vital research," said Dr. Anthony Frank, vice president of research and information technology at Colorado State. "The expertise of our faculty and our federal research partners, combined with these state-of-the-art facilities, make an unbeatable combination."