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IAH Opens Interim Lab as it Pursues Two Expansion Plans

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, UK has opened a new £10 million ($15.3 million) interim high containment lab to support its research on dangerous pathogens while the institute completes a project to build a larger, £100 million lab that should be completed in 2014.

The new Interim SAPO (Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1998) 4 Laboratory, or IS4L, will support IAH's core efforts to study animal virus diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), African swine fever (ASF), and African horse sickness (AHS), and which use genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics technologies.

The IS4L was built to replace the main lab at IAH, which was closed down in 2007 following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at Pirbright that was contained, IAH said recently.

"This facility will ensure work on AHS, ASF and FMD can continue under the best conditions possible," Michael Johnson, head of estates at the IAH, said in a statement.

The £10M for the IS4L lab was provided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

IAH said that the new lab has a secondary monitoring system that interrogates the primary building management system with real-time information on critical controls, such as air pressure and filtering systems, in order to ensure that no pathogens can escape into the environment.

"This is critically important to our work," Johnson said. "We want to make sure we are operating safely within the laboratory and so we have a number of layers of protection between ourselves and the environment."

The IAH also has undertaken a second £100 million-plus campaign, for which it has already secured £80M, to build more high containment labs, experimental facilities, and infrastructure for studying avian and other animal diseases.

BBSRC Chief Executive Douglas Kell sees the investment at IAH as an economic boost to the Pirbright region.

"The new facilities for studying avian and other diseases will help to protect huge sectors in the UK economy and protect hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be at risk during an animal disease outbreak," he said in a statement when the latest funding round was announced last fall.

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