Brucellosis: Lab & research effort soughtWritten by Christy Hemken
A big component of research within the state is the $24 million funding request for the new Biosecurity Level 3 (BSL3) lab in Laramie, which would be an addition to the University of Wyoming’s existing lab facilities.
“The funding is a very fluid situation right now, but so far it’s looking generally positive,” says UW College of Agriculture Dean Frank Galey of the lab funding during the week that the Legislature was working through the state’s 2009 budget.
Galey says, according to the estimates from building officials, the $24 million request will cover the total cost of construction. Because it’s a one-time funding request UW would be able to begin construction, theoretically, as soon as the Governor signs the bill, he says.
“The state already approved funding that allowed us to do some planning, so we’ve done a lot of the architectural work already,” explains Galey. “There’s a little more design work if the project does get approved.”
Wyoming State Veterinary Lab Director Don Montgomery says site work could begin as early as May or June. “Right now we’re going through the third stage, which is the construction documents.”
Since last year’s funding request Montgomery says the lab has become a little smaller, but it still has basically the same functionality.
Another funding request includes $100,000 as seed money for research on an effective brucellosis vaccine. That money would be used for travel and logistics to host another Laramie Project-style consortium of researchers from around the country.
The Laramie Project of several years ago was a road map for research in general areas and suggested the research consortium be formed. “We’re just carrying on with that process and building a team that would attract some funds,” says Galey. He says the team would include not only the researchers but also a group that would make sure brucellosis gets the attention it needs.
Galey says it’s his hope that through the research group the other two affected states, Montana and Idaho, and federal agencies will join in and contribute to the effort.
The team would get together at least once in the next year and make a roadmap that could then be taken to funding agencies. “There’s not enough money in brucellosis to get a private company to fund the research, so we’re hoping to attract public partnership funds to do the work,” says Galey. “Right now we’re without an effective tool against brucellosis.”
The research group would decide where the research would be conducted, and that’s where the new BSL3 lab comes into play. “The research would be headquartered here but we might have research labs all over the country,” says Galey. “We’ve got really good people here doing research already, but we really need that lab facility. The research we’ve got going right now is showing promise, but we can’t do anything with the real bug until we get the lab. It’s a big first step.”
He says that, with the new lab, Wyoming would be a lot more competitive in keeping the research funding at home. Because brucellosis is considered to be a disease of concern by Homeland Security, there are limitations on where research can be conducted on the bacteria.
But, for now, Galey says funding for the research is the first priority. “Hopefully that team will come up with a proposal we can send to the feds and the three states to see if they’d be willing to fund our efforts.”
Of the research consortium, Wyoming State Veterinarian Walter Cook says, “Realistically, no one state can do the research that’s needed. If we have a collaborative effort we might be able to get something done. The Governor’s long term goal is to bring the researchers together to develop a research plan, then have the state pony up the money to get started and also ask Montana and Idaho to match our funds, then use that as a challenge to the federal government to also put up money for research.”
Galey says there’s no set time yet for when the researchers would meet, but it would have to be sometime within the next year to make use of the funding.