Fort Detrick to open drug and vaccine testing facility

A new Medical Countermeasure Test and Evaluation Facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland will allow researchers to test new drugs and vaccines for military and civilian purposes.

An environmental impact study has been ordered for the new $584 million, 460,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to be completed in 2018, reports.

The facility will be used to test medical countermeasures on animals, which is the final step before approval of drugs and vaccines by the FDA.

"It fulfills the development process for medical countermeasures," George Ludwig, a civilian deputy principal assistant for research and technology at Fort Detrick, told "Most of the work that's currently being done on post right now is the early stage development -- understanding the basic biology of the threat agents, understanding what types of countermeasures might be available, and developing prototypes of those countermeasures. The next step in that process is actually the FDA approval process, so once you have a product that's ready for approval, then you have to prove it's effective."

The military and other government agencies will oversee the facility, which will be located on the north side of Fort Detrick's biodefense campus. The facility, however, will be largely staffed and run by contractors, with approximately 275 civilian employees expected to work in the building.

Researchers at the facility are expected to begin working on vaccines for filoviruses, including Ebola and Marburg, as well as new anthrax vaccines, when the facility opens.