A biodefense lab will be built at the University of Iowa to help the nation prepare for bioterrorist threats. The U-of-I has won a federal planning grant of nearly one-and-a-half million dollars to create what will be called a Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research. Dr. Bradley Britigan, a U-of-I professor of internal medicine, will be its director. Dr. Britigan says the center will do several things, including: initiating new research for the diagnosis and treatment of bioterrorist agents and emerging infectious diseases, training future investigators how to identify bioterrorist threats, and coordinating multi-level preparedness efforts. He says there are countless pathogens in the world the research team will zero in on. They include things like: anthrax, the plague, smallpox and tularemia as well as other bioagents that are newly emerging, like SARS, which wasn’t on anyone’s radar until a year ago. Britigan says the nine-eleven attacks of two years ago were not the stimulus for the creation of this center, but the anthrax attacks that followed nine-eleven likely -were- the reason. The U-of-I will be the home for the biodefense lab but it will also involve scientists at: the V-A Medical Center in Iowa City, Iowa State University, the University of Kansas in Lawrence and Wichita State University. The planning grant is designed to support investigator training, research, planning and development of resources and facilities. Britigan says the grant is the first step on a long road to getting the center built. He sees it eventually employing up to one-hundred people.
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