UIC given no to open new biolab

The University of Chicago Medical Center has been notified by the United States Department of Energy that it has full approval to commence operations at its new Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory.

The new lab, operated by the Medical Center on land owned by the United States Department of Energy at the Argonne National Laboratory, will be used to study organisms that cause infectious disease.

Attaining full approval to commence operations meant passing a series of rigorous inspections as well as fulfilling Department of Energy and Centers for Disease Control and prevention Select Agent Program mandates.

“Teams in the laboratory will develop and test drugs, vaccines and diagnostic devices to counter bioterrorism and study emerging infectious diseases,” Olaf Schneewind, MD, PhD, lab director, professor and chair of Microbiology at the University of Chicago and Director of the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research, said in a press release. “The express purpose and specific design of the laboratory is to generate the very best science and technology in a safe, state-of-the-art facility.

“The lab will also provide the ideal setting for teaching the next generation of young scientists and technicians how to do productive and safe research on infectious disease.”

Research funding of $35 million was awarded by the NIAID in 2003 to the University of Chicago, which was named the lead GLRCE institution. The funds were awarded to build a regional biocontainment facility to support GLRCE research.

The laboratory will study Risk Group 2 and Risk Group 3 microbial agents, which are classified as causing either mild to moderate non-life threatening symptoms in humans or those that have the potential to cause lethal infections but have at least one effective treatment.