Galveston biosafety lab to get UTEP assistance

Associated Press
October 6, 2003

EL PASO, Texas - One of two national biocontainment centers where scientists will study some of the world's most dangerous microorganisms will get research assistance from a West Texas educational institution on fighting biological terrorism.

The University of Texas at El Paso will aid the $150 million National Biocontainment Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston with research for developing treatments to counter health effects from biological terrorism, UTEP officials say.

"This partnership with UTMB opens the doors for UTEP to expand even more its rapidly growing biomedical research portfolio and play a major role in developing responses to a broad range of biological threats and emerging infectious diseases," UTEP President Diana Natalicio told the El Paso Times in Monday's online edition.

The Galveston laboratory will be funded by $110 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and $40 million from the University of Texas System.

The UTEP Biosciences Research Facility, which is under construction and will be operational by mid-2005, is expected to function in connection with the Galveston laboratory by providing support in medical and scientific research, university officials say.

"The center creates great possibilities for UTEP because our faculty will be eligible to work at their facility and acquire grants to forward our work here," said Eppie Rael, chairman of the Biological Sciences Department at UTEP.

At the $27 million Biosciences Research Facility, scientists will research a higher level of diseases while working with the Galveston laboratory to study more closely public-health issues surrounding bioterrorism.

Officials said UTEP will be one of five supporting universities. Construction of the National Biocontainment Laboratory in Galveston is expected to begin in 2006. The 160,000-square-foot lab should be completed by 2008.

Information from: El Paso Times