March 26, 2007
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
Phone: (973) 972-3000
UMDNJ Holds Topping-Off Ceremony for $39 million Biodefense Facility
Facility on time, on track to open by June 2008
NEWARK — Administrators at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark held a topping-off ceremony today for the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, a $39 million facility that will conduct research on infectious diseases and diseases caused by agents of bioterrorism.
Researchers, educators, health professionals, community leaders, state, and local officials attended the ceremony for the 34,000 square-foot structure under construction adjacent to the International Center for Public Health. During the ceremony, attendees autographed a steel beam, which was then hoisted to the highest point of the building’s framework. Such ceremonies are held at the midpoint of construction, when the steel framework has been erected on time.
The UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School was awarded a $26 million construction grant by the National Institutes of Health to build the RBL in the University Heights Science Park section of Newark. UMDNJ provided $13 million of the $39 million project.
"The creation of this facility at the University and New Jersey Medical School adds an exciting new dimension to the strengths already in place here on our Newark campus, and solidifies our place in the research world for infectious diseases and combating the growing threat of bioterrorism, not just regionally or nationally, but globally," said Dr. Bruce C. Vladeck, interim president.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health designated UMDNJ a component of the Northeast Biodefense Center, which is a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infections. The consortium of research and public health organizations seeks to provide the region and nation with practical solutions to the public health threats emanating from both bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. The RBL is one of 13 biocontainment laboratories nationwide.
“We are proud that the National Institutes of Health has chosen the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School to be on the frontlines in the battle to combat emerging infectious diseases like tuberculosis and the threat of bioterrorism with medical interventions,” said Dr. Robert L. Johnson, interim dean of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. “As an extension of the NIAID’s mission to improve human health and increase preparedness, the RBL will be a focal point of scientific research and where new and improved vaccines, diagnostics and medications are developed.”
The RBL will be operational by June 2008. When completed, the two-story facility will contain almost 15,000 square feet of Biosafety Level 3 laboratory and support space for more than 200 scientists in the Northeast Biodefense Center. The facility is adjacent to UMDNJ’s International Center for Public Health, which houses the Public Health Research Institute, the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School’s National Tuberculosis Center.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.