CDC requests $350M to replace facility that handles deadly pathogens

cdc
The architecture firm that designed the current lab reportedly suggested it would last 50 years, but the CDC request for replacement funds comes after only a dozen years of operation. (CDC.gov)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has requested $350 million from Congress to replace one of its labs for dangerous diseases, including Ebola and smallpox. The current facility has only been in use since 2009.

Of the eight labs in the United States capable of working with highly dangerous germs, five are run by the federal government, James Le Duc, director of the University of Texas’s Galveston National Laboratory told the Associated Press. The architecture firm that designed the current lab reportedly suggested it would last 50 years, but the CDC request for replacement funds comes after only a dozen years of operation.

CDC officials have been aware of issues with the lab since the Obama administration, though this budget represents the first time the agency has made an official request to replace it. A combination of the ongoing public health focus on infectious outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika, alongside concerns about funding to continue studying those diseases in foreign countries creates additional urgency as the physical equipment used to study such pathogens in Atlanta continues to degrade.

Free Daily Newsletter

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceHealthcare!

The healthcare sector remains in flux as policy, regulation, technology and trends shape the market. FierceHealthcare subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data impacting their world. Sign up today to get healthcare news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

The chief of CDC’s viral special pathogens branch, Stuart Nichol, Ph.D., told the Washington Post that, as a matter of public safety, the four-year project to construct the new labs needs to start soon.

“What the engineers are telling us is that all of the equipment that is running this thing, the brain to it, all of these things are aging,” he said. Any breakdowns would reduce the margin of safety for operating the lab, he added.

Research on highly virulent strains of influenza also take place at the labs, which have specialized equipment used recently to study the likelihood that an outbreak of bird flu in China in 2013 could become a pandemic, according to the Post.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., told the AP that the need to replace the building did not relate to previously disclosed incidents at the facility, including a failure of the decontamination shower system in 2009 and a 2015 fire.

Suggested Articles

Here's a look at how the top publicly-traded health systems performed in the third quarter.

Patient engagement, analytics and precision medicine will be key to shifting to value-based care, but funding is a significant challenge, CIOs say.

FierceHealthcare sits down with senior leaders from the industry as they discuss the most pressing issues and opportunities to improve in healthcare.