Oct 022007
Authors: Beth Malmskog

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the formal opening of CSU’s Rocky Mountain Regional Biocontainment Laboratory Tuesday. The 38,000-square foot building at the foothills campus will be devoted to infectious disease research as well as the development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for commercial markets.

“This lab represents a critical resource for the state, nation, even for the world,” said Dr. Barry Beatty, a distinguished professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, during the ceremony.

Beatty is the chief scientific officer for MicroRX, the lab’s commercial venture.

The biocontainment lab is a $30 million project, funded by the university and grants from the National Institutes of Health. The facility will feature Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) laboratories, equipped to study potentially lethal airborne and other disease agents such as those causing West Nile virus, plague, tuberculosis and malaria.

The new biocontainment lab will also house a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, funded by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Infectious disease is one of CSU’s primary areas of research. The university partners with the Center for Disease Control and the U. S. Department of Agriculture in labs on campus. CSU is home to the Bioenvironmental Hazards Research Building and the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory.

The biocontainment lab is a network of many smaller, specialized labs working together. One of these, the Proteomics Genomics Core lab, will analyze proteins in genetic material from pathogens and infected animals. It was the most expensive lab in the facility, according to Wade Whitcomb, a research associate at CSU and the lab manager.

“There’s two million dollars of equipment in this room,” Whitcomb said, standing in the lab.

The high cost was due to expensive scientific instruments in the lab.

The research done in the labs will depend on CSU students, said Dr. Richard Slayden, principal investigator (PI) for the biocontainment lab’s Genomics Proteomics Core.

“At least half of the personnel are graduate students, veterinary students and post-doc fellows,” Slayden said.

The lab will provide students with “exposure to facilities and technologies they wouldn’t otherwise have,” he said.

“This facility will set students from CSU, who are able to work with the PIs here, apart from those at other institutions,” said Nathan Groathouse, of the Product Development and Manufacturing Core.

Staff writer Beth Malmskog can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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