Public Release: 

Medical leaders meet to commemorate National Biocontainment Lab construction start

Scientific symposium to follow featuring international leaders in biodefense and infectious disease research

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

GALVESTON, TX. - Texas scientific and political leaders will turn ceremonial shovels at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 10, to commemorate a milestone in a work-in-progress, the nation's first National Biocontainment Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The formal groundbreaking ceremony, to be held in William C. Levin Hall on the UTMB campus, marks the beginning of the construction phase of the Galveston National Laboratory. The project has been under design since UTMB received the $110 million construction grant from National Institutes of Health in October 2003.

A scientific symposium will follow featuring international leaders in the field of biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. The symposium will also be held at Levin Hall on the UTMB campus.

"The Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) is the first complex of its size and scope undertaken in the United States on an academic campus," said Dr. Stanley M. Lemon, director of UTMB's Institute for Human Infections and Immunity.

"This facility will make it possible to accelerate important scientific work to develop new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for diseases like anthrax, plague, hemorrhagic fevers, typhus, West Nile fever, SARS, influenza and drug-resistant tuberculosis," he said.

Once completed, the six-story structure will house more than 12,000 square feet of maximum-containment biosafety level 4 (BSL4) laboratories where researchers from UTMB and other institutions will safely study disease-causing viruses and bacteria that could emerge naturally or be used by bioterrorists. A total 83,000 square feet of research space will also incorporate BSL2 and BSL3 labs.

The GNL is expected to be completed in June 2008 at a cost of about $167 million.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health will join Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, James Huffines, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System, members of the UT Board of Regents, UTMB president Dr. John D. Stobo, faculty and friends to celebrate this achievement.

The symposium, "Facing the Future: Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases," will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. in the North Auditorium of Levin Hall. Co-chairs are Dr. C.J. Peters, Director of Biodefense, and Dr. David H. Walker, Executive Director of UTMB's Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The aim of the symposium is to explore the challenges posed by bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases, and to consider the future role of the GNL in meeting these challenges.

Presenters include Dr. Fauci (vision, aims, and biodefense research agenda for the NIAID), Dr. Mike Osterholm (threats posed by bioterrorism and emerging infections), Dr. Rob Webster (Avian flu), Dr. Heinz Feldman (the Marburg outbreak and filovirus vaccine efforts), and Dr. George Poste (issues relating to research transition and commercialization of the research products.)


Dr. Fauci, Sen. Hutchinson, Mr. Huffines, Dr. Stobo, Dr. Lemon, and all presenters, Dr. Osterholm, Dr. Webster, Dr. Feldman, Dr. Poste will be available for interviews, immediately after the ceremony, around 12:30 p.m. Interviews may be arranged by contacting Tom Curtis (409) 772-2455 or Marsha Canright, (409) 772-8785, or the news line at (409) 772-NEWS.

A tour of the construction site and/or individual interviews may also be arranged.

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