For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Preston
National Institutes of Health Awards Almost
To Build Biosafety Laboratory for Biodefense Research
New Effort Designates Only Eleven Centers Nationwide for Funding
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)
was notified today (Sept. 30) that it will receive almost $21
million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build
a regional biocontainment laboratory whose focus will be research
on diseases caused by agents of bioterrorism and newly emerging
The new facility, which will be built at the International Center
for Public Health (ICPH) in University Heights Science Park in
Newark, will be the third such facility in Newark.
Eleven biocontainment laboratories are being awarded construction
grants nationwide, according to the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases at NIH. The exact amount of the UMDNJ
grant is $20,880,305.
This announcement follows NIAID's designation three weeks ago
of eight Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) for Biodefense and
Emerging Infectious Disease Research, including the Northeast
Biodefense Center, whose membership spans institutions in New
Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico.
Both UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical and the Public Health Research Institute
(PHRI), which share space in the ICPH, are members of this consortium.
In addition to the Public Health Research Institute, UMDNJ-New
Jersey Medical School's Department of Microbiology and Molecular
Genetics and National Tuberculosis Center are housed at ICPH,
along with the administrative offices of the Newark unit of the
UMDNJ- School of Public Health.
ICPH, which opened in 2002, was designed as a state-of-the-art
facility for advanced infectious disease research.
"When we built ICPH and brought UMDNJ and PHRI scientists together,
our intent was to establish a symbiotic relationship between leading
scientists that would attract large federal grants and establish
Newark as a major focal point of infectious disease research,"
said Dr. Stuart D. Cook, UMDNJ president.
"NIAID's decision to locate a regional biocontainment laboratory
at ICPH makes sense not only because Newark already has a major
concentration of infectious disease research expertise, but because
New Jersey is the home of many pharmaceutical companies, which
are a critical element in developing the new vaccines and therapeutics
that will be needed to meet the public health threats we face,"
said Lewis Weinstein, PHRI president.
The ICPH already contains a 7,500 square foot BSL 3 and animal
facility. The UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School also operates a
1,000 square foot Biosafety Level 3 laboratory, the centerpiece
of its Center for Emerging Pathogens, in the Medical Sciences
Building on the university's Newark campus.
These two BSL 3 facilities are being utilized by 10 laboratories
working on tuberculosis and five working on biodefense.
The new biocontainment facility at ICPH, designed as a stand-alone
facility, will add an additional 13,000 square feet of Biosafety
Level 3 laboratory and animal support space.
In addition to accommodating a growing number of infectious
disease and biodefense researchers in Newark, the facility will
serve the immediate and expanding containment laboratory needs
of the 208 RCE scientists in the Northeast Biodefense Center.
The current five principal investigators pursuing select agent
studies will as the nucleus for recruiting five to seven new scientists
with related interests in biodefense. The RBL will also house
at least two visiting RCE scientists and will support research
of commuting RCE scientists for the region, more than 50 per cent
of whom work within 20 miles of the Newark campus.
Dr. Nancy Connell, director of the Center for BioDefense at
UMDNJ, said, "We are proud to have been selected as one of the
sites in this new national effort for rapid development of the
scientific knowledge required for more effective therapies, diagnostics
and vaccines to meet the infectious disease threats facing the
nation and the world, whether it's anthrax or SARS." The Center
for BioDefense was established three years ago by UMDNJ and has
received more than $12.6 million in federal appropriations to
develop studies of biological agents that have potential to be
used in bioterrorism attacks.
"With both the new regional biocontainment laboratory and the
RCE designation, Newark has been jettisoned into the national
arena and designated a major participant in this new critical
national research agenda on infectious disease," said Dr. David
Perlin, scientific director of PHRI, which received $2.2 million
as part of the RCE designation. "We have a strong and talented
group of scientists who already are engaged in significant research
on the bacterial agents that could pose a major health threat
to this country.
Dr. Russell Joffe, dean of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
and principal investigator on the grant, said, "Over the past
two years, the medical school has been amassing a core of infectious
disease and biodefense researchers and adding a third Biosafety
Level III laboratory to our resources will certainly help us attain
the level of world-class research excellence."