Army halts plans for new biodefense lab at Fort Detrick

The Army has scrapped plans to construct a high-security animal research laboratory that would have helped speed biodefense drug and vaccine approval for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at Fort Detrick.

The program will be folded into another facility that is already under construction at the military installation. Officials at Fort Detrick said that after performing a need-based study, the demand was found to not be high enough to construct what would have been called the Medical Countermeasures Test and Evaluation Center, the Frederick News Post reports.

The center's mission, which will remain the same, will be transferred to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases from the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. The USAMRIID has new labs under construction with an anticipated completion date of 2014.

"We're really expanding the mission within that facility so it's no new construction, it's no expansion to that facility," Kathleen Berst, the manager of the USAMMDA program, said, according to the Frederick News Post.

The facility was planned to ease a backlog of FDA applications related to diseases that cannot be tested on humans, such as Marburg and Ebola. Officials said the country lacked enough research space to keep countermeasures moving toward licensure.

"We went back and we relooked at the projected demand for this type of facility, and we also relooked at the existing facilities that can support this type of work," Berst said, according to the Frederick News Post. "Based on what we found, there was sufficient capacity within those labs to do this type of work."