State Hygienic Lab at night.

State Hygienic Lab at night.

Researchers and scientists at the State Hygienic Laboratory are preparing to move into a new building in Coralville. Lab director Christopher Atchison says the current facility is a converted tuberculosis hospital which opened in 1917.

“We need a more secure and flexible facility than the space we’re in now,” Atchison said. Employees will move into the new facility on the University of Iowa’s Oakdale campus sometime in June.

The new $38-million lab features open architecture with plenty of space for testing disease outbreaks. “Additionally, we know the threat of bioterrorism remains a real possibility. This laboratory provides additional security so we can not only follow up on any specimen that is submitted to us, but frankly, it’ll be a safer place for our employees to work,” Atchison said.

In addition to addressing emerging diseases and bioterrorism, the State Hygienic Lab is responsible for helping preserve water, soil and air quality in Iowa. Atchison says the new facility will be one of the premiere hygienic labs in the country. “Minnesota has a recently constructed lab and we think this will compare very favorably to that,” Atchison told Radio Iowa. “But, across the country, I think there are going to be fewer than a dozen labs that have the kind of capability that this lab does.”

A building dedication, ribbon cutting and public tours of the new lab are taking place this afternoon (Wednesday). The lab is located at Highway 965 and Oakdale Blvd. in Coralville. Public tours run from 1:00-2:30 p.m. A building dedication ceremony will begin at 3:15 with a ribbon cutting at 4:00.

Photo courtesy of Tom Jorgensen