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Last Updated

28 Jun 2003

Source: Baltimore Sun, June 28, 2003

Bioterrorism lab denied grant for federal funding

UM's research facility at Aberdeen would have employed more than 300

By Scott Shane, Sun Staff

A proposed $200 million high-security laboratory for bioterrorism research at Aberdeen Proving Ground has been rejected for federal funding and will not be built, University of Maryland School of Medicine officials said yesterday.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases informed the school this week that its application is not among the finalists to build a national biocontainment laboratory, said Dr. Howard B. Dickler, associate dean for research and graduate studies.

"We thought we had an outstanding application, so we're very disappointed," Dickler said. "I guess their vision and our vision didn't coincide."

The proposed lab would have employed more than 300 people and brought in an estimated $25 million a year in federal money.

Though no reason for the decision was given, Maryland already has one of a handful of so-called Biosafety Level 4 laboratories in the country, at the Army's biodefense center at Fort Detrick in Frederick. Another has been approved for construction there by the National Institutes of Health.

Jeff Minerd, a spokesman for NIAID, the funding agency, said confidentiality regulations prohibit him from revealing the identity or number of applicants to build such a lab or the number chosen as finalists. Press reports indicate at least four institutions - the University of California at Davis, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the New York State Department of Public Health - are still in the running.

Minerd said NIAID will award funding for one or possibly two national biocontainment labs in September. They will be rated at Biosafety Level 4, the highest level of security, which is required to work with the deadliest pathogens.

A consortium of local institutions including the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the John Hopkins University is still competing for NIAID money to create a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense. That designation, also to be made in September, could bring $10 million a year to the area for bioterrorism research.

The Bush administration quadrupled federal funding for bioterrorism research and defense to nearly $6 billion a year in response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax mailings in 2001.