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(Last updated 2/6/04)

Previous stories and resources related to this new laboratory:

"University To Open New Lab To Study Infectious Diseases," 7/22/03.

[Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document that outlines the criteria for dealing with Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1) through BSL-4 containment can be found here.

Q & A providing background for this facility can be found here.

CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON NEW BIOSAFETY LABORATORY

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Weather permitting, construction will begin later this month on the West Campus Biocontainment Laboratory, the University’s newest facility designed for research on some of the most important human diseases.


“This will be one of the safest, most-modern laboratory facilities at Ohio State. Once it is up and running, we expect to be able to substantially improve our already strong research program aimed at better understanding important human illnesses.”


Workers will begin preparing the foundation for the lab and installing utilities on the site near Pressey and Scott Halls on Ohio State’s west side.

The modular building is being built off-site and will be transported to the university in late May to early June. Construction on the site should be completed by late June. Ohio State plans to offer a public open house at the site to display the new facility.

“This will be one of the safest, most-modern laboratory facilities at Ohio State,” explained Larry Schlesinger, professor and director of the division of infectious diseases on campus and director of the new facility.

“Once it is up and running, we expect to be able to substantially improve our already strong research program aimed at better understanding important human illnesses.”

Schlesinger came to Ohio State after directing a similar facility at the University of Iowa. He has spent the last 15 years conducting research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes tuberculosis. Much of that work was done inside secured labs like the one being built here.

Under federal guidelines, all facilities where potentially infectious agents are used must adhere to strict procedures that insure containment of these pathogens. Depending on the ease with which microorganisms can be transmitted, they are classified as either BSL (Biosafety Level)-1, BSL-2, BSL-3 or BSL-4, with BSL-4 carrying the highest risk of infection.

Organisms requiring BSL-1 protections are those believed to be incapable of causing disease in healthy adults, while BSL-4 pathogens, such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, have extremely high mortality rates.

Ohio State has no facilities capable of handling BSL-4 infectious agents, nor does it plan to do such research. Researchers expect to use the new facility to continue current research on tuberculosis and tularemia, a bacterial disease that can pass from some animals to humans, as well as other diseases.

"It is critical that we understand how new and emerging microbes work to help protect public health," said Dr. Fred Sanfilippo, senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health. "Larry is one of the leaders in this area, and this facility is important for many of our biomedical research and training programs to remain at the cutting edge."

The new BSL-3 facility will be physically isolated and constantly monitored. Access to the area will be limited and tightly controlled.
Ohio State has a long history of successful research attacking infectious diseases. Researchers here developed a vaccine against the highly contagious virus responsible for feline leukemia and two years ago discovered a new approach to producing a vaccine against anthrax.

“However, these and other efforts over the years have focused on using viral or bacterial components rather than using the entire organisms,” Schlesinger said. “This new facility will provide our scientists with the kind of facility they need to safely and directly attack these diseases and the organisms that cause them.”

Once inside, researchers will work in one of six segregated laboratories. No interaction between these separate areas is possible. Additional safeguards insuring isolation of the organisms will follow federal guidelines mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ohio State now has two working BSL-3 facilities – one in the College of Biological Sciences and another at the University’s Laboratory Animal Center.

Additional BSL3-level laboratories are being planned for the university’s Biomedical Research Tower set to open in 2006. The university operates several hundred BSL-2 category laboratories as well.

Tom Rosol, interim vice president for research at Ohio State, said, “This new laboratory will give our researchers the ability to take their current infectious disease research to a new level, and in doing so, increase the safety and security of the people of Ohio and the nation.”

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Contact: Larry Schlesinger, (614) 293-5671, Schlesinger-2@medctr.osu.edu; Cecil Smith, (614) 292-1284, Smith.143@osu.edu; or Tom Rosol, (614) 292-1582, Rosol.1@osu.edu.
Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu