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DHSS and UAF break ground on new virology lab

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: (907) 474-7778

06/11/07

Photo caption below.
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Officials gather June 12, 2007 for the groundbreaking ceremony for the future state virology lab building, a joint project between the Department of Health and Social Services and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. From left to right are Dr. Bernd Jilly, chief Alaska Public Health Laboratories, Terry Schmidt, director state virology lab, Dr. Don Ritter, former director of the virology lab, Alaska Sen. Joe Thomas, Alaska Sen. Gary Wilken, Regent Cynthia Henry, Buck Sharpton, vice chancellor for research, John Blake, director UAF Office of Research Integrity, attending veterinarian, Karleen Jackson, DHSS commissioner, Dr. Jay Butler, director of Public Health and Stephen Jones, UAF chancellor. (Click photo to zoom in.)

State and university officials gathered June 12 for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new State Virology Lab building, a joint project between the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The $32-million lab will be connected through the basement and ground levels to the UAF Biological and Research Diagnostics facility on the Fairbanks campus, providing collaboration opportunities for scientists with both agencies.

"This morning's groundbreaking"¦is an expression of the strength and power of reciprocal relationships to meet real needs associated with the health and well-being of Alaskans," said UAF Chancellor Steve Jones. "It is a strong statement that the practice of disease identification and infectious agent monitoring is best when it occurs side-by-side with research and discovery."

DHSS Commissioner Karleen Jackson also acknowledged the importance of cooperation in disease prevention and diagnosis.

"The collaborative effort will result in shared knowledge, new ideas and the transfer of "¦theoretical academic concepts and play out in the real world of the laboratory, " she said.

The virology lab, the only one in the state, conducts 45,000 tests each year and provides statewide viral diagnostic services that aid in the diagnosis and prevention of human diseases including the human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis, rabies, herpes and influenza.

The lab has reported information on influenza to the World Health Organization since 1967, has conducted the State Rabies Control Program since 1971 and has been part of a program to immunize Alaska Natives against hepatitis B since 1983. The virology lab will occupy the ground and upper level of the 29,000-square foot building. UAF has contributed $1.5 million to the project and will occupy the basement level of the facility, which is slated for completion in December 2009.

For more information contact, Greg Wilkinson, (907) 269-7285, Cell (907) 382-7032.