UTMB Receives National Laboratory Designation, $110 Million Grant

In: All News   Posted 05/22/2003

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday named the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston one of only two universities nationwide to receive the designation of National Biocontainment Laboratory (NBL), U.S. Sen. John Cornyn announced. HHS will provide more than $110 million in grants to build the necessary facilities. Cornyn, who earlier this year urged HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to “give full consideration to the many strengths of (UTMB’s) application,” praised the announcement, and pledged his support for seeing the project through to completion. "UTMB is a leader in this increasingly critical field of research, and is an excellent choice to help lead the effort to protect our nation from an unthinkable catastrophe,” Cornyn said. “This facility will have enormous benefits, not just for UTMB and the region, but for our national and homeland security.” the designation comes with a grant for $110,090,673, paid over five years. The State of Texas has committed to the remaining $40 million necessary to complete the lab, as well as $17 million for equipment. The funding will provide for the installation and certification of a Bio Safety Level four (BSL-4) biocontainment laboratory. BSL-4 labs are cleared for research on pathogens with a high level of risk of aerial contamination, and therefore require much higher standards for handling and containment. A National Biocontainment Laboratory provides scientists a secure facility for the study of biological agents, such as those with a potential for use in bioterror attacks. Scientists at the NBL will develop countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics to protect against diseases such as Anthrax and Bubonic Plague. in an effort to help the university receive the designation and grant, Sen. Cornyn wrote a letter of support to HHS. In the letter, Cornyn said that “assisting HHS to protect our citizens against attacks by pathogens that pose the greatest risks to civilian populations is a natural extension of the expertise at UTMB.” Cornyn called UTMB President Dr. John D. Stobo, and Dr. Stanley Lemon, dean of the medical school, on Tuesday to congratulate the university and staff for their efforts to bring this important project to Texas.