NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci traveled to Galveston, Tex.,
on Aug. 10 to take part in a groundbreaking ceremony and scientific
symposium marking the start of construction of the National Biocontainment
Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at
|NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci
In 2002, NIAID awarded approximately $120 million to the university
to fund construction of the 6-story facility, which will serve
as a national resource for the conduct of research involving the
most dangerous infectious disease agents requiring Biosafety Level
4 (BSL-4) containment. Research on organisms that require BSL-3
and BSL-2 containment will also be conducted at the new facility.
The laboratory, along with a second facility planned at Boston
University, also will be available to assist in national, state
and local public health efforts in the event of a bioterrorism
or infectious disease emergency. The laboratories, to be built
using the most stringent federal standards, will incorporate multiple
layers of safety and security to protect laboratory workers and
the surrounding community.
Fauci described the event, which was also attended by Texas Sen.
Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rep. Tom DeLay and other local dignitaries
"The university has a history of doing research on biodefense
and pathogenic organisms for many years prior to this," he said. "The
UTMB staff successfully competed for one of the two new NIH-funded
extramural national biocontainment laboratories. The new facility
will help researchers here continue their tradition of excellence
and leadership in the field."
However, Fauci noted that the event was one of the most unusual
groundbreaking ceremonies he has attended. "It was the first groundbreaking
I have ever seen conducted indoors," he says. That is because the
new structure will be built on the current site of the Gail Borden
building, which lies adjacent to UTMB's Center for Biodefense and
Emerging Infectious Diseases and the World Health Organization
Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases.
Following the groundbreaking ceremony, Fauci served as keynote
speaker in the symposium, "Facing the Future: Biodefense and Emerging
Infectious Diseases." He discussed the vision and goals of the
NIAID research agenda in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases.
Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, Robert Webster
of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Heinz Feldman of the
Public Health Agency of Canada and George Poste of Arizona State
University also participated in the symposium.
Fauci emphasized the contribution of basic research to the national
biodefense effort. "In reaching the goal of developing countermeasures
against the threat of bioterror, it is important to recognize the
close connection, if not the inseparability, of research aimed
at protecting against naturally emerging and re-emerging infections
and the research associated with the development of countermeasures
against threats of the deliberate release of microbes and toxins," he
said. "Good basic science serves as the bedrock of all research
supported by NIAID."