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Center for Predictive Medicine

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April 10, 2007

At 13 months of age, Dylan McHale of Louisville was diagnosed with spinal meningitis after streptococcal pneumonia settled into his brain and spine.

It took researchers at a biosafety lab 11 days to find an antibiotic to treat the disease.

"If the right antibiotic had not been found, I could have been disabled, deaf or even dead," the Zachary Taylor Elementary School fifth-grader told a crowd of about 100 people at an April 9 groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Louisville’s new Center for Predictive Medicine on Shelby Campus.

Taylor was one of three students to read essays they had written after UofL researcher Eugenia Wang visited their class in March.  Wang not only told them about the importance of biosafety research but also let them conduct their own experiments, noted UofL President James Ramsey.

"We're taking the essays written by all of the students in this class, sealing them in a commemorative box and mounting the box into the floor of the lobby of our new center," Ramsey said. "Our hope is that the future generation that finds them no longer has to worry about diseases for which there are no cures."

The $34.6 million Center for Predictive Medicine is one of 13 new Level 3 biosafety labs being built throughout the country with funding from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The NIH issued a finding in response to a months-long environmental assessment of the project that the 37,000-square-foot lab would have “no significant impact” on people, animals or plants in the environment.

Construction of the lab at the northeast corner of Shelby Campus is scheduled to begin in late April.

Researchers in the facility will work to develop vaccines and other countermeasures to fight bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases.

“Several of our scientists are working to pinpoint which genes and proteins keep infectious diseases out of our bodies and which genes and proteins let them in,” said Manuel Martinez-Maldonado, executive vice president for research at UofL. ”If they can discover while some people fall prey to certain diseases and others don’t, it could help us develop a vaccine to protect everyone.”

The lab also will boost economic development by attracting federal funding, creating jobs and new businesses, employing more people in high-tech science positions and offering training students can take to the workforce, UofL officials say.

A business plan now being developed calls for the facility to be used by UofL scientists and faculty from other schools and biotechnology companies in the region.

Researchers will not be stationed full-time at the facility but will use it under a “time-share” type of arrangements. Full-time employees will include technicians, safety officers, animal-care personnel and a building manager.

UofL has conducted a series of public forums about the lab and plans to have at least one more forum before the lab is up and running. University officials also said they will continue to meet with the members of a community advisory group formed to offer input on the project.

For more information, call 502-852-1113.


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