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Regents OK new animal laboratory

BY KURT CUNNINGHAM | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

UI researchers will have a new underground facility to house animals after the state Board of Regents approved an indoor enclosure for $11.2 million at Thursday’s meeting.

Scientists hope the new facility — which will cost almost $134 million — will contribute to better research and security.

At 35,000 square feet, the underground lab will connect the Medical Education Research Facility and Carver Biomedical Research Building. It is a late addition to the Institute for Biomedical Discovery — a project the UI has already started.

Officials set aside state and federal money in 2007 to be distributed over several years for the initial project. They also received private donations given specifically to the project, said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

“Science is important to Iowans,” he said. “Dr. George Weiner [the director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center] says there are many research ideas that don’t get funded, and a facility such this increases the chances that they will be funded.”

Professor François Abboud, a UI associate vice president for research, agreed with Moore. One central location will decrease deparments from competing for grants, he said, and the facility overall will help provide better care for animals.

“This facility is going to be more convenient for researchers,” Abboud said.

A major advantage to linking the two buildings together is increased security, Jordan Cohen, the UI interim vice president for Research, told the Associated Press. Biomedical research requires high levels of safeguards, and Iowa has seen its share of related problems. On Nov. 14, 2004, vandals broke into the animal-research laboratories in Spence Laboratories and Seashore.

The activist group Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the break-in. Officials said the vandals deliberately spilled hazardous chemicals, which forced the buildings to remain closed through Thanksgiving break that year. They also released rats, mice, and pigeons from their cages and destroyed more than 30 computers and three rooms.

This facility will join other major university that have underground research labs, such as the University of Southern California.

DI reporter Tyler Lyon contributed to this report.


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