University is applying for a $14 million grant from the National
Institutes of Health to establish a regional biocontainment laboratory
at the School
lab would allow University researchers to conduct advanced research
on infectious and emerging diseases and immunology. The facilitys
status as a regional biocontainment laboratory under the federal
grant would qualify it for use by visiting scientists from other
universities and research institutes in the event of a biodefense
University has a long history of strength in infectious disease
research, with many research projects currently ongoing," said
Dr. William Petri, chief of U.Va.s Division of Infectious
Diseases and International Health and a professor of medicine, microbiology
and pathology. "This grant will allow us to respond to new
NIH biodefense research initiatives and to establish a lab that
will be as good as any in the country in an increasingly important
area of research."
the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent use
of anthrax as a terrorist weapon, the National Institutes of Health
have dramatically increased funding for research in infectious and
emerging diseases. More than $1 billion in new funding is available,
including $150 million to establish new lab space and regional biocontainment
laboratories for biodefense research.
lab at U.Va. would serve a federally designated region that includes
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington and West
Virginia. Scientists at universities and federal labs throughout
the region would interact and collaborate on biodefense research
University needs $14 million in additional funds to begin construction
on its new $60 million Medical Research Building 6, which would
house the regional biocontainment laboratory.
November, Virginia voters passed a bond referendum that will provide
$24 million for construction of the building. The University also
is raising funds from private sources. The regional biocontainment
laboratory would form a quadrangle with Medical Research Buildings
4 and 5 and could be completed as early as 2006 if federal funding
the University conducts research at three federally established
levels Biosecurity Levels 1, 2 and 3. BSL1 is basic lab work
on common and safe organisms. Level 2 involves work with organisms
such as salmonella and staph, which have the potential to make people
sick but are not dangerous under normal laboratory conditions. Level
3 involves agents such as anthrax and Francisella tularensis, bacteria
that can be lethal but are fully manageable under strictly controlled
laboratory conditions. Such agents also have been developed as biological
weapons by terrorists and "rogue" nations.
University currently has one BSL3 lab where researchers investigate
the characteristics of anthrax and Francisella tularensis as well
as their potential effect on human health. With further funding,
U.Va. scientists will deepen and broaden their studies, looking
for new therapies and drugs to treat infections and for new ways
to make effective vaccines. U.Va. scientists also are investigating
the use of anti-inflammatory drugs patented by the University to
protect against the toxins produced during anthrax infection.
state-of-the art BSL3 lab would allow U.Va. researchers to further
investigate these and other agents and to attract additional federal
funding for medical and biodefense research. The 6,900 square feet
of BSL3 lab space will be in two highly secure sites in the regional
lab would help the University recruit top scientists and increase
our collaborative work with researchers around Grounds and in the
region," said Petri. "This would be the optimal setting
to bring together infectious disease researchers, allergists and
immunologists for vaccine and drug development, and for a greater
understanding of how various agents cause disease."
plans to award six grants for regional biocontainment laboratories
throughout the U.S. Twenty-seven institutions are applying for the
grants; U.Va. appears to be the only institution in Virginia applying.
Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North
Carolina State and others within the region also are applying.
NIH requires grant applicants to notify the public whenever a regional
biocontainment laboratory is proposed, the University is placing
an advertisement in local newspapers notifying residents that information
about the lab is available from the School of Medicine's Office
of Research. The University also held a press briefing recently
to explain the rationale for the lab.
biocontainment lab, like all labs at U.Va., would be overseen by
the University's Institutional Biosafety Committee, which ensures
that research laboratories follow all federally-established guidelines
and regulations for biological research. The committee includes
members of the University's research community and two Charlottesville-Albemarle
citizens unaffiliated with the University.
lab will allow the University to serve and respond to a national
need for biodefense research," said Mark Ross, a member of
the biosafety committee and a chemist with the Charlottesville biotechnology
company MDS Proteomics. "I have complete confidence that the
University of Virginia will run this lab according to all federal
regulations and protocols, and will produce important findings in
this critical area of research."
grant application is available to the public for review in the deans
office at the medical school. For more information about the regional
biocontainment lab, contact Dr. William Petri at 924-5621.