Plans continue for state BSL3 lab
Laramie – According to UW College of Agriculture Dean Frank Galey, plans to construct a Biosecurity Level 3 (BSL3) lab in Laramie are closer than ever to funding and fruition.
“What we’re looking to do is provide a biologically secure space at the state vet lab to allow us to work with organisms important to Wyoming that are classified as high-impact pathogens,” says Galey of the new lab, referencing brucellosis, plague and tularemia, all of which are frequent in Wyoming. “We commonly see these in our wildlife and livestock and we need to be able to work with them diagnostically.”
For three years now the state has considered requests for the lab’s funding, but nothing has yet worked out.
“The lab project is now in the planning state, and it’s been attached as part of a larger lab program,” says Galey. “The state wants to build a new lab in Cheyenne as well, so they’re trying to move the two as a unit.”
“Now that we have the planning, the lab project is rolling up in the queue,” says Galey.
“There was some confusion early on as to what it was we wanted to do, and I think a large amount of that confusion has been cleared up. We’re working closely with the folks at the state facilities to make sure we work well together to get the proposal put in place.”
The Cheyenne lab would house the State Crime Lab and the public health lab, as well as others. “This project would move a lot of the state labs and consolidate them in Cheyenne,” explains Galey.
Requests last winter for a modular temporary BSL3 lab were not granted by the Legislature. “My sense is that it might have been penny wise and pound foolish,” says Galey. “It was very expensive to build a temp building that would last eight years for $4 million. The decision was that if we’re going to fix the problem, we’re going to do it right. We’re looking to build a permanent BSL3 lab that will last a long time and provide a quality platform for the State Vet Lab.”
Regarding support lab space rated at BSL2, Galey says, “The whole lab is operating close to BSL2 already. With the construction of BSL3 space we’d move infectious disease operations closer to that area so there aren’t a lot of bugs moving up and down the hallways. We need to make the whole building more secure and a safer place to work for our students and staff. Renovation and reorganization would accompany the new construction, creating BSL2 and BSL3 space.”
Galey says the joint project fared “very well” with the State Building Commission several months ago. “We’re hoping that by the time the Commission meets this fall we’ll have a solid estimate on what the building might cost. Once we have the estimate it’s up to the university and the Governor to go forward with it.”
“Right now I’m devoting most of my effort toward working well with the state building people to answer their questions so we can have a credible estimate for the Governor and the Legislature to consider in the fall,” says Galey.
Galey says the goal is to gain approval on lab funding in the next legislative session, and he encourages members of the ag community to become involved. “This is something the ag industry needs to get behind if it’s going to happen, I think it’s important to ag, and we hope the ag members will get behind it.”
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.