Regents approve virology lab design

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2006

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved designs for a new state virology lab and approved a new bachelor's degree in emergency management at UA Fairbanks.

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They also approved remodeling the Gitkov Building in Auke Bay. Plans call for turning the facility into the UAS bookstore.

Regents wrapped up a two-day meeting Thursday.

The state Department of Health and Social Service virology lab will be built on the UA Fairbanks West Ridge, and construction is to begin next year.

The state building will provide opportunities for collaboration with UAF researchers in animal and human health projects.

The virology lab now shares space in the UAF Arctic Health Building. Lab manager Terry Schmidt said the space is not adequate for the lab's important work.

"We're crammed into existing space and there's just no place for us to go and grow into," Schmidt said.

The virology lab works with private and public health care providers throughout Alaska to test for HIV, hepatitis A, B, and C, herpes, West Nile, norovirus, mumps, and other dangerous viruses in humans and animals. Often, Schmidt said, the lab in Fairbanks is the only facility in the state with the proper equipment or expertise to test for certain viruses, such as rabies.

The new facility will offer special labs with equipment designed to protect researchers and the public from dangerous infectious diseases. There also will be labs equipped to handle new techniques in virus detection known as molecular testing.

"It's an exquisitely demanding and sensitive technique that is very sensitive to contamination because we're looking for genetic material in the viruses," Schmidt said. "This will be really nice to have a dedicated area we can keep clean."

The new building will be connected to the recently completed Biological Research and Diagnostic facility.

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