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UTMB's National Biocontainment Training Center gets $5 million from federal government

GALVESTON, Texas — The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's National Biocontainment Training Center has received a $5 million boost in federal funding support. The funding, contained in the Department of Defense appropriations bill, was signed into law by the president on Monday, Dec. 21.

"We're proud that the government recognizes our expertise in training researchers so that they in turn will help our nation remain healthy and secure," said Dr. David L. Callender, president of UTMB. "This commitment validates and reaffirms our safety training efforts."

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison led the effort for UTMB to secure the funding on the Senate side while U.S. Rep. Pete Olson did the same on the House side.

"We are grateful for our elected officials' support," Callender said.

UTMB is a nationally recognized leader in biocontainment training. This type of training ensures that researchers working to discover new tests, treatments and vaccines to combat emerging and reemerging diseases like influenza, Ebola and West Nile virus, do so safely and within a secure laboratory setting. Biocontainment measures protect both the safety of the researcher, the integrity of the research they are undertaking, as well as the safety of the surrounding community.

"Well–trained infectious disease researchers can and will advance the public health for the local, state and national community and UTMB is setting the standard for that training," added NBTC Director Dr. Thomas G. Ksiazek. "With this continued federal support, the NBTC can meet the growing regional, national and international demand for well-trained biocontainment scientists and engineers who themselves are critical elements in our national defense and preparedness arsenal against naturally occurring and man-made biological threats."

Congress previously approved funding for the NBTC in FY 2008 and 2009. This latest $5 million funding announcement brings the total federal investment in the program to $11.75 million.

In recent years, the federal government has funded construction of more than 2.6 million gross square feet of biodefense research facilities involving Biosafety Level 3 and BSL–4 laboratories at a cost of approximately $2 billion. The Galveston National Laboratory, at UTMB, the only national laboratory in Texas, is among the new federally funded laboratories constructed. It is anticipated that several hundred new scientists, technicians and engineering support personnel will be needed to staff these new facilities, and there are few formal programs to prepare and train individuals for this work.

To date, UTMB's biosafety experts, research scientists and biocontainment engineers have successfully trained approximately 1,200 individuals to work in national and international BSL–2, –3 and –4 labs. In addition to training tomorrow's research scientists to work safely in the containment laboratory environment, UTMB's NBTC is also home to a unique Biocontainment Operations Fellowship Program – a two-year fellowship program designed to train individuals on the commissioning, maintenance, and operation of BSL–2, –3, and –4 laboratories.

ABOUT UTMB: Established in 1891, Texas' first academic health center comprises four health sciences schools, three institutes for advanced study, a research enterprise that includes one of only two national laboratories dedicated to the safe study of infectious threats to human health, and a health system offering a full range of primary and specialized medical services throughout Galveston County and the Texas Gulf Coast region. UTMB is a component of the University of Texas System.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
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Galveston, Texas 77555-0144

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