$15M NIH grant

Veterinary school to build regional biosafety lab

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has received a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to build a state-of-the-art regional biosafety laboratory that will advance research into food- and water-borne diseases that threaten public health.

The new laboratory, scheduled to open in 2008, will serve as a resource for the growing life sciences cluster in central Massachusetts, home to the second largest number of biotechnology, medical device and pharmaceutical companies in the Commonwealth. The NIH grant will provide 75 percent of the funding to build the 30,000-square-foot research building in the Grafton Science Park on the western portion of the Grafton campus. Tufts will contribute $5 million toward the cost of the building. The research building will house biosafety level 2 and level 3 labs and is designed to provide state-of-the-art safety protections for those working in the labs as well as the surrounding community.

“This research building will provide the safest possible environment for our scientists to continue their work to improve human and animal health,” said Sawkat Anwer, interim dean of the Cummings School. “Tufts’ Division of Infectious Diseases will use the new laboratory to safely continue its internationally esteemed research into preventing, detecting and treating food- and water-borne diseases that are frequently transmitted by animals. Our researchers have been studying these diseases since 1990.”

More than 75 percent of all infectious diseases that have emerged in the last 50 years have come from animals. Research into these diseases is not only important to public health but also bolsters the nation’s biodefense. Because veterinary researchers have experience with these diseases from their work with animals, they are in a position to understand the links between the diseases in humans and animals.

Once in operation, the new laboratories will support NIH-funded biodefense and emerging infectious disease research. They also will support the development and testing of childhood vaccines for the developing world.

Scientists at Tufts School of Medicine, Tufts-New England Medical Center, UMass Medical School and other area academic institutions will use the labs. The university expects the research building to attract businesses to Grafton Science Park, thereby increasing tax revenues for the town.

Barbara Donato is assistant director of public relations at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She can be reached at barbara.donato@tufts.edu.