As part of a University-wide effort to upgrade and expand facilities for animal experimentation and care, the Medical School will open a new 13,000-square-foot "state-of-the-art" animal laboratory this month. The new space, fortified by special security measures, will increase the total animal lab capacity at the University by almost 10 percent, according to University Laboratory Animal Resources Director Harry Rozmiarek. The area includes eight class-100 rooms, designed to allow researchers to work with and house animals in a controlled and highly sterile enviornment. The air in these rooms will be circulated through a series of filters 200 times an hour to remove all dust and germs. Researchers will also be able to adjust and monitor humidity and temperature in the rooms. The class-100 rooms will greatly expand the University's capacity for immunology, transgenetic and embryo transfer reserach using specially-bred rodents. "People are waiting in line to use the facilities now," Rozmiarek said. Rozmiarek said the Medical School will begin putting animals into the facility this month after ULAR tests all the monitoring and filtering systems around-the-clock for about two weeks. The new facility also includes several rooms designed for psychiatry experiments studying the effects on animal behavior of night and day light rythyms. Michael Hindrey, director of research planning for the Medical School, said the total cost of the new animal facility is not yet available, but he said that constructing just four of the eight class-100 rooms cost $1.1 million. "The [Clinical Research Buidling] itself cost about $450 per net square foot to construct, but the animal care rooms are more expensive than the most specific lab [elsewhere in the building]," Hindrey said. The entire eight-floor Clinical Research Building cost $53.8 million to construct, according to Hindrey. About $25 million of that amount was raised from outside sources including a $10 million grant from the Pew Charitible Trust and $13 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. According to Rozmiarek, the cost for the animal labs was especially high because of the high cost of the security measures. In the past, the University has been targeted by radical animal rights groups who have broken into labs to "liberate" animals, upset research in progress and steal documents. Under the new system, only persons with magnetic keys will be able to enter the facilities. Alarms have also been installed. "It would be very difficult for someone to get in who didn't have business there," Rozmiarek said. "If someone from the outside got in and disrupted that building it could be devestating to the research." Rozmiarek said that two or three new animal laboratory technicians will be hired to staff the facility. There are currently 12 technicians working in the Medical School division of ULAR. This summer two technicians came forward with complaints that they were overworked because the staffing levels were not high enough to deal with the numbers of animals being housed in the Medical School facilities. The next step in the University's plan to upgrade its animal care facilities will be a $1 million renovation of 12,000 square feet of lab space in the Veterinary School. The space is not currently being used because it is outdated. Rozmiarek said construction should begin in six months and will include total replacement of walls, ceilings and floors along with the purchase of new lab equipment such as autoclaves.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.