State News

North Carolina Among 5 States Named As Finalists for National Germ Lab

Posted July 11, 2007 1:43 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2007 11:18 a.m. EDT

— A site near Butner, N.C., is one of five finalists for a $450 million national lab in which killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied.

Sites in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina were chosen as possible hosts for the 520,000-square-foot National Bio- and Agro-Defense Lab, said several members of Congress.

Reps. David Price, Brad Miller and Bob Etheridge jointly announced North Carolina’s inclusion in the final five.

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Jackson cold the congressmen about the Butner news, the three said in a joint statement.

“I’m convinced there isn’t a location in the country that is better suited to support this research lab,” said Price, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in the House. “Our area’s fine research universities, the site’s proximity to the airport and RTP, and our highly educated work force all make the Triangle site a perfect fit for this critical Homeland Security facility.”

The sites were chosen by a team from the Homeland Security, along with the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

The facility will replace an aging, smaller lab at Plum Island, N.Y., where security lapses after the 2001 terrorist attacks drew scrutiny from Congress and government investigators. It would bring at least 300 lab-related jobs and more in construction, officials have said.

Congress provided money for the $47 million design and architecture work, but no money has been appropriated for construction or operations yet.

The winner should be announced next year, with the lab operating by 2014.

The lab will have the highest-level security rating, since it would be equipped to handle the most lethal, incurable disease agents.

The other four sites that made the final cut are in San Antonio; Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; and Madison County, Miss.

Sites that didn't make the cut were in California, Oklahoma, Maryland, Missouri, Wisconsin and Kentucky, which was working with Tennessee.

The Plum Island lab to be replaced conducts research on foot-and-mouth disease and other germs to protect agriculture and livestock from foreign diseases. The new lab will do that and research on other diseases and contagions, possibly including anthrax, smallpox and Marburg and Lhassa, rare hemorrhagic fevers that attack the vascular system.