In February 2002, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in consultation with a Blue Ribbon Panel, developed a strategic plan for biodefense research. This plan confirmed a pressing need to focus research efforts on agents that pose the greatest risks to civilian populations in the event of a bioterrorist attack. The panel also examined the Nation's research infrastructure and concluded that a critical need existed for facilities in which research can be conducted on new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics that would protect the general population from emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism. In response, the NIAID provided funding for the construction of National Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs) and Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBLs) at research institutions across the country. The NBLs serve as a national and regional resource for research on biodefense and emerging infectious disease agents that require BSL-4/3/2 biocontainment, while RBLs serve as a regional resource for research requiring BSL3/2 biocontainment.
A RBL with BSL3 biocontainment requirements was built in the UT Baptist Research Park. This facility was designed and built according to the strictest federal standards and meets specific biocontainment requirements that protect researchers and the community and the environment.
The NBLs and RBLs complement and support the research activities of NIAID's Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research. UTHSC is a part of the South East Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research.
Specifics about the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Lab
The Regional Biocontainment Laboratory is a two-story structure with approximately
- 30,315 gross square feet
- Approximately 16,250 net square feet
- 1,257 square feet of BSL-2 lab space
- 7,300 square feet of BSL-3 space
- 7,695 square feet of support and associated office space
- Total cost $25 million with NIAID funding approximately $17.7 and UTHSC providing
the remaining funds.
Gerald I. Byrne, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Biochemistry (MIB)
Director, Regional Biocontainment Laboratory
University of Tennessee Health Science Center