The Texas Biomedical Research Institute, best known as 'the place with the monkey's on Loop 410 on the northwest side, is installing a larger Level Four Biosafety Facility, the safest containment structure, to expand its research into deadly pathogens like Ebola, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Jean Patterson, who is in charge of the facility's existing BSL-4 facility, which is the only privately owned facility of its type in the country, says the growth and spread of deadly diseases from Ebola to ZIka to Chikunguyna have the lab working overtime and booked for two years in advance, so now is the time for an expansion.
"Obviously, the nation needs this work to be done and we are doing it here, and we have to offer more capacity," she told News Radio 1200 WOAI.
The new facility will be built on the secure campus of Texas Biomed and officials say it will not be hazard to the surrounding community
."The Institute's current biosafety level 4 laboratory, which is the highest safety level laboratory that allows for the study of the world's deadliest pathogens, must expand if we are to meet the growing demands for discovering more effective diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines for these investions," Texas Biomed President Dr. Larry Schlesinger said.
Texas Biomed says it will pursue private grants as well as federal funding to build the new BSL-4 laboratory.
Dr. Patterson says Ebola is a key disease which is already being researched in the existing lab at Texas Biomed.
"Ebola is a bio safety Level-4 organism, and we are very involved in the pre clinical development of a vaccine, as well as treatments that we can give to people who have acquired Ebola," she said.
She says the expanded lab will also do research on Zika virus, which is a newly emerged bio hazard in the southern United States.
"All of these things, Ebola and Zika, are all in large part because we are encroaching into areas where we have never been before, of the virus is able to travel on airplanes into places where it has never been seen before."
But the scope is far larger than that. Dr. Patterson points out that at least 25% of the 60 million human deaths worldwide each year are due to infectious diseases of all types.
"The threat posed by current and emerging infectious diseases is real and growing," she said
.In addition, there is the constant threat of bio terrorism, and Patterson says the new lab will also do research into diseases like anthrax which could be weaponized by terrorists.