UofL receives $9.8 million grant to expand biosafety lab
The University of Louisville has received a $9.8 million grant to ramp up research on flu and other viruses at its Center for Predictive Medicine regional biosafety lab.
The funds, part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, were awarded through a National Institutes of Health initiative to improve the nation’s top research facilities.
UofL will use the grant to add about 13,000 square feet of new space onto its existing research lab at ShelbyHurst, increasing the size of the building to about 50,000 square feet. The extra space will be used to expand studies of influenza and other viruses.
“This upgrade will help us create a research infrastructure specifically geared to studying flu, SARS and other viruses,” said William Pierce, the university’s executive vice president for research. “It will significantly improve our ability to understand those diseases.”
The expansion will not affect the lab’s classification as a Level 3 facility. Study of the most dangerous biological agents is allowed only in Level 4 labs, and none exist at UofL.
The Center for Predictive Medicine is being built with a $22 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and about $13 million in UofL funds. Researchers there will work to develop vaccines aimed at fighting bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases.
The lab, originally scheduled to be operating in 2009, is now expected to open sometime this year due to weather and construction delays.
“We’ve said from the beginning we would build a safe, secure facility that is one of the best in the nation, and we’re taking plenty of time to do it right,” Pierce said.
UofL won approval from NIAID in 2005 to build the lab, which originally was to measure 45,000 square feet. In 2006, officials decided to downsize the building to about 37,000 square feet to offset rising construction costs.
Besides allowing researchers to sharpen their focus on viruses, the expansion grant will restore the lab to roughly its original size and “then some,” Pierce said.