Colorado State University Breaks Ground on $22 Million Laboratory to House Global Research on Infectious Disease, Biosecurity Threats

Colorado State University will break ground on a $22 million laboratory, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant awarded in 2003, during a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at the university’s Foothills Research Campus. Sen. Wayne Allard, university President Larry Edward Penley, Provost and Senior Vice President Tony Frank, and Dr. Alicia Dombroski, program officer with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease, will share remarks about the infectious disease research the university will conduct in the new facility and the importance of the university’s global health research complex currently under development at the foothills campus.

The laboratory, a level-three security regional biocontainment laboratory, is a 33,850-square-foot facility that will expand the university’s ability to conduct research to prevent, diagnose and cure infectious diseases that impact the health of people around the world as well as to find ways to prevent and counter acts of bioterrorism. The advanced research capacity and facilities for Colorado State scientists and other qualified investigators from government, academia and industry will help to develop new vaccines, therapies and diagnostics for pathogens identified as priorities by the NIH.

"This groundbreaking will mark a significant milestone in our university’s capacity to continue as a global leader in research related to infectious diseases and biosecurity," said Penley. "The research undertaken at this facility will improve lives throughout the world and will support the security and financial viability of communities and societies confronting these critical global health issues."

The facility is funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The new research facility will add to the federal and university effort centered on the Colorado State campus, and will further cement Colorado State as a leading international site for infectious disease research including West Nile virus, antibiotic resistant tuberculosis, yellow fever, dengue, hantavirus and other infectious health threats. Work at the RBL will complement similar research underway on the foothills campus at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s infectious disease research facility and the university’s existing Bioenvironmental Research Building and its Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory.

The facility also will house the university’s Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Rocky Mountain RCE, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, will be a multi-disciplinary, highly interactive center for research and training to address national needs to counteract potential agents of emerging diseases and bioterrorism. The Rocky Mountain RCE will develop new vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for emerging diseases; provide training in emerging diseases and biosecurity to scientists, physicians, veterinarians and other public health personnel throughout the region; and assist state and federal agencies in responding to emerging diseases.  

The Rocky Mountain RCE will focus on zoonotic emerging diseases, which are animal diseases that are transmissible to humans. Zoonotic pathogens have been the source of almost all emerging diseases throughout the world, such as West Nile virus and Sin nombre hantavirus, that have emerged in the Rocky Mountain region in recent years. The Rocky Mountain RCE will provide a national and regional resource focusing on the diagnosis, prevention and control of these types of diseases.  

Colorado State was selected to receive the grant and house the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory in large part because of the university’s long history and proven track record of safe and innovative research in infectious diseases.

The new facility will work in conjunction with the university’s Rocky Mountain Institute for Biosecurity Research, an initiative that partners with eight Rocky Mountain land-grant universities where research and outreach capabilities are focused on protecting the nation’s human and economically important plant and animal resources.

"The university’s foothills campus is among the finest in the nation for this vital research," said Frank. "The expertise of our faculty and our federal research partners, combined with these state-of-the-art facilities, make a remarkable combination. This facility brings further recognition along with economic opportunities to the Fort Collins community and Colorado."

The groundbreaking ceremony will open with an opportunity for the public and dignitaries to learn about the research conducted at the facility through educational displays and informational tours beginning at 10 a.m. Remarks will begin at 10 a.m., with comments from Allard, Penley, Frank, Dombroski and scientists who will work in the facility.

Due to limited parking and security measures, groundbreaking attendees must meet at the university’s B. W. Pickett Equine Center on Overland Trail for transportation to the ceremony. All guests must show photo identification at registration at the Pickett Center before transportation to the event.