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Work Begins on a Critical Domestic Herd, Wildlife Disease Research and Testing Facility


June 23, 2009 — In about two years, a new $24.9 million biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory will house critical research and testing on diseases that infect both domestic and wildlife herds in Wyoming.

A BSL-3 laboratory allows disease agents like brucellosis, plague, tularemia and Q fever to be studied in a safe environment.

"When complete, the BSL-3 laboratory will significantly increase our ability to diagnose and then do needed research about these disease agents," said Frank Galey, dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming.

"This is a perfect example of how the research and outreach missions of the university work to help solve issues impacting Wyoming," UW President Tom Buchanan said. "The work that will be done in the new biosafety lab is applied research at its best."

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said his organization is pleased the project is set to start because of the ongoing challenge with brucellosis in northwest Wyoming.

"We have worked very hard the last two or three years with the University of Wyoming and State Legislature to secure funding for this," he said.

The cost of construction is projected at $18 million and the total project cost $24.9 million, said Ian Catellier, project manager for the state of Wyoming. Funds will come out of the Wyoming General Fund. The Wyoming Legislature approved the project during its session earlier this year.

A federal BSL-3 designation for a laboratory means it's designed to be highly secure. With specialized design and safety features, the lab provides a safe environment for researchers whose work involves biological agents that may cause disease in humans and animals.

"We believe that the only long-term answer to brucellosis in Wyoming wildlife and spreading to cattle is through research over time bringing us a more efficacious vaccine," said Magagna. "We are anxious to see research undertaken."

The Wyoming Wool Growers Association has been a longtime supporter of the WSVL, said Bryce Reece, executive vice president of the organization.

"We saw early on what the capabilities of an enhanced BSL-3 laboratory could do for our industry and our state and have supported it throughout the long and sometimes arduous track it has been forced to travel," he said.

The BSL-3 laboratory will improve the capabilities of the WSVL, he said, "which, in turn, enhances and provides tremendous benefit to both the sheep industry of Wyoming as well as all of animal agriculture in Wyoming."

Reece, who is a strong proponent of the WSVL, says the BSL-3 laboratory will underscore WSVL's status as one of the premier facilities in the region, he said.

"We live in a changing, complex and much more dangerous world than at any time in our nation's history," said Reece. "Protection of our agriculture base is not only of importance to the producers who make their living in agriculture but is also one of our country's most important national security challenges."

Photo:
A groundbreaking took place June 23 at the site of the lab in West Laramie.

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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