The CDC is seeking $350 million for a new bioterror pathogen lab complex to replace the old one, which dates to 2005 and is beginning to age beyond the ability to maintain it.
The lab houses specimens of Ebola, smallpox, and other deadly organisms and is maximum security with safety features to prevent any accidental release, theft or escape of the pathogens.
The Trump administration sent the request to Capitol Hill in mid-February along with another $50 million in other priorities related to the lab, The Associated Press reported.
It would take four years to build a new facility, and CDC viral special pathogens branch chief Stuart Nichol warned that “in the relatively near future, things will start to break down, and you start to have less of a safety margin for operation,” The Washington Post reported.
Research at the existing lab helped identify the African fruit bat as the source and host of the Marburg virus, which kills up to eight out of 10 people who contract it.
A total of eight labs in the U.S. have the security and safety features to work with the germs found at the CDC lab. Five of those are government-run.
The new lab would be built on land that is currently used as a parking lot on the CDC campus, the AP said.
“The longer it takes, the more likely there will be a failure,” former CDC director Tom Frieden told the AP. “And if there’s a failure, we lose an essential line of defense” against threats.
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