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Vol. LVII, No. 18
September 9, 2005
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Fauci Attends Galveston Groundbreaking

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci
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 Galveston.

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 as "celebratory."

"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."

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