Biosafety Lab Funded

November 3, 2003

Fran Simon
Phone: (504) 588-5221

Tulane has received a $13.6 million grant to construct a new building at the Tulane National Primate Research Center where scientists will develop treatments and vaccines for emerging infectious diseases and germs that bioterrorists may use to attack the United States.

The funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health, will be used to build a regional biocontainment laboratory. The largest of the eight national primate centers, Tulane is the only one to receive this funding. The facility will cost an estimated $18.6 million, and the university will supplement the initial award with an investment of almost $5 million, says Paul Whelton, senior vice president for health sciences at Tulane, adding that the university anticipates additional National Institutes of Health funding to purchase equipment.

Tulane scientists and those with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have agreed to a 20-year cooperative agreement in which they will collaborate on projects related to biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. Whelton, who spoke at a Sept. 30 press conference announcing the funding, said that the grant not only puts the primate center in "an unrivalled position of leadership," but also will have an important economic impact for the area by bringing in high-paying jobs.

Whelton also noted that research dollars at the primate center have tripled in less than two years, with full-time faculty increasing from 60 to 220, including 27 doctoral-level scientists. The center, which is located on 500 acres of land in Covington, La., currently has $10 million in construction in progress. The Tulane National Primate Research Center has had a nationally acclaimed infectious diseases research program since its founding in 1964 and a biosafety level 3 laboratory for about a decade, says Andrew Lackner, the center's director.

"Our research programs have grown dramatically," Lackner says. "This new regional biosafety lab will expand greatly our existing biocontainment capabilities to support the recently funded Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research."

The infectious diseases program at the Tulane National Primate Research Center currently focuses on HIV/AIDS, malaria, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, tuberculosis, microsporidiosis and other diseases. These are multidisciplinary studies involving investigators in multiple divisions at the primate center and collaborators from elsewhere at Tulane and other institutions.

The Tulane Regional Biocontainment Laboratory plans research projects investigating additional infectious diseases, including SARS, botulism, plague, tularemia and brucellosis.

Fran Simon can be reached at

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