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Last Updated

30 Sep 2003

Source:  Associated Press, September 30, 2003

Boston, Texas Win Biodefense Lab Money

By JENNIFER PETER, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston University and the University of Texas won a national competition to build high-security laboratories to research deadly viruses as part of the Bush administration's campaign to broaden defenses against bioterrorism.

The National Biocontainment Laboratories would house hundreds of scientists researching vaccines and handling deadly agents such as anthrax, plague, and smallpox. Each will receive a $120 million federal grant for construction.

The facilities will join three other operational laboratories in the country that carry the highest safety designation of Level 4, which is for handling agents that cause deadly diseases that have no cures, according to the NIH.

The other top labs are at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the Army's Fort Detrick in Maryland and the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Security measures there include armed guards, maze-like hallways that prevent quick escapes, and the manipulation of germs with mechanical hands.

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said the NIH has made "a major down payment in the nation's battle against bioterrorism."

Still, many of the lab's potential neighbors in Boston oppose the plan.

"We still think this is the wrong place for such a facility and will be continuing to work on all fronts to try to stop the facility from being built, including pursuing the legal track," said Penn Loh, executive director of Alternatives for the Community and Environment.