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Center for Predictive Medicine


July 26, 2007

The University of Louisville will be able to install $1 million worth of extra research equipment in its Center for Predictive Medicine because construction costs for the lab came in under bid.

The addition of a micro CT/PET scanner, a machine that reveals the tiniest features of physical structure and metabolism, will “significantly improve our ability to study infection at the lab,” said Dr. Manuel Martinez-Maldonado, UofL’s executive vice president for research.

Scanners using CT, or computed tomography, and PET, position emission tomography, reveal images far more detailed than X-rays. Doctors often use them to diagnose medical problems such as cancer and heart disease in their patients.

Instead of using the machines to scan people, however, scientists at UofL’s research lab will use them to get an up-close look at how bacterial and viral infections develop and take hold in mice and rats, Martinez said.

“This will allow us to see infections in their earliest stages, something that will help us learn more about the way they develop,” he said.

Researchers in the $34.6 million regional biosafety lab will work to develop vaccines and other countermeasures to fight bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. Learning how the body responds to infection before it displays any outward symptoms will be key to developing vaccines and early-stage treatments, Martinez said.

Construction of the lab on a 4.2-acre site at the northwest corner of Shelby Campus began in late April. The NIH issued a finding earlier this year that building the lab would have “no significant impact” on people, animals or plants in the environment.

The 37,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in early 2009.

UofL awarded the contract for building the lab in late spring to Messer Construction Co., a Cincinnati-based business with a Louisville office. The company’s bid came in about $1 million under budget, which is allowing the university to buy the additional research equipment, Martinez said.

In late July, excavation at the site was nearly complete. Workmen have been drilling down to solid rock, pouring concrete and adding reinforcement to create strong support piers for the facility, project management officials said.

The university has begun a national search for a scientific director for the lab, a permanent post that also will hold a professorship in UofL’s School of Medicine. Once the director is on board, he or she will work with current university faculty members and recruit five new faculty members to collaborate on research in the facility, Martinez said.

UofL’s biosafety lab 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.

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