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Federal Government Funds Construction of a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at Duke University

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on Tuesday announced it was awarding $12 million for the construction of a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at Duke University Medical Center. In addition to providing space for Duke research programs, the new facility will house administrative offices for the $45 million Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense (SERCEB), a consortium of which Duke is a member.

The new facility will be one of nine regional biosafety laboratories across the country. The NIH award will provide $12 million for construction, which will be matched by $4 million from Duke. Officials said the laboratory will be constructed as an addition to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center Isolation Facility, which was built in 1971 and houses research projects requiring sophisticated biosafety procedures to ensure the safety of researchers and the organisms and animals they study.

SERCEB is one of eight centers nationwide funded by NIH to develop the next generation of vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests to protect citizens against emerging infections and to defend against organisms that might be used in a biological attack. Funding totaling $45 million for the SERCEB consortium, which includes six southeastern institutions, was announced Sept. 4 by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.

"This new facility will be a regional resource and will significantly enhance our ability to conduct cutting-edge research on ways to protect humans from diseases including SARS and monkeypox, and from organisms like anthrax or smallpox that could conceivably be used in a biological attack," said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and leader of the SERCEB consortium.

The government classifies research according to biosafety levels, ranging from a low of one to a high of four. The Duke Cancer Center Isolation Facility currently operates biosafety Level Two and Three facilities. The new laboratory will encompass 38,000 gross square feet of additional research space similarly operated at biosafety Levels Two and Three. No biosafety Level Four research is being conducted or planned at Duke, officials said.

"This new grant provides Duke with the opportunity to expand our current biocontainment space and to support SERCEB research," said R. Sanders Williams, M.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and principal investigator for the facility. "Our application for this grant was reviewed and supported by local public health and government leaders who understand that this type of work is an important service to the nation, and that it will not be a safety risk to the community," Williams added.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University and East Carolina University participated in the application to NIH for the new facility. In addition, the Durham County Health Department will have access to the laboratory when needed.

"This research space would allow us to react quickly to assist public health efforts in the event of an emerging infectious disease outbreak or a biological attack and will enable future collaboration with researchers from the government and other academic institutions," said Pascal Goldschmidt, M.D., chair of the department of medicine at Duke.

Construction on the facility is expected to begin during the spring of 2004 and should be completed by the fall of 2005.

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