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A laboratory that will allow research into select agents, including brucellosis, was formally dedicated Friday at the University of Wyoming.
The $25 million biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory, located at 1174 Snowy Range Road in Laramie, allows for testing diseases in a safe manner, said Frank Galey, UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources dean.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal; UW President Tom Buchanan; Jim Neiman, UW Board of Trustees chairman and Galey spoke at the dedication ceremonies.
Since the Department of Homeland Security was established following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, research with live Brucella abortus bacteria can be conducted only in BSL-3 laboratories.
"It simply makes sense that UW be at the forefront of research that impacts not only Wyoming's critical agriculture and tourism industries, but simply the quality of what we know as Wyoming's way of life," Buchanan said.
Freudenthal said the BSL-3 Lab would place the University and the state in position to create research-based policy.
"The kind of research that needs to be conducted needs to be conducted in this kind of secure facility," the governor said. "This is not any old lab -- I think there are only about 40 of these in the United States and we have one of those located here at the University of Wyoming. It's something we need to be proud of."
Groundbreaking for the facility was last June. The 20,000 square-foot addition contains a 1,280 square-foot BSL-3 lab, a 2,600 square-foot BSL-2 lab plus other work rooms. The 5,860 square-foot renovation of the existing Department of Veterinary Sciences building, which houses the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory, includes modifications of the existing BSL-2 lab and conference and administrative offices.
"The laboratory will allow us to work to help diagnose or identify diseases such as brucellosis and plague in a safe manner for the community as well as for our faculty and staff members," said Galey, who heads the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team established by Freudenthal in 2004.
Don Montgomery, professor and head of the UW Department of Veterinary Sciences, said the new facility allows for targeted research on animal diseases deemed of importance to Wyoming that is not currently possible with existing, less-complex facilities.
Currently, the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has more than six researchers and numerous graduate students working on issues related to prion diseases, including Hermann Schatzel, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Prion Biology. Schatzl's specialty is in the study of prions, the proteins that underlie chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk. This is the same class of protein that also causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) of cattle and scrapie in sheep.
"Together, all of these researchers are seeking solutions through improved modeling, testing, diagnosis, treatment and vaccine development," Buchanan added.
Support for the laboratory came from numerous groups, including the Wyoming Stock Grower's Association, Gov. Freudenthal and the Wyoming State Legislature, Galey said.