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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 4, 2007

Hygienic Laboratory opens Biosafety Level 3 facility in Ankeny

The security and safety of Iowans will be greatly enhanced through a new Biosafety Level Three (BSL-3) laboratory that is opening at the University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) in Ankeny, Iowa. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies held today celebrated completion of the BSL-3, which will help protect Iowans against potential acts of terrorism and other health threats.

"The addition of the BSL-3 facility greatly extends the Hygienic Laboratory's ability to provide critical testing services needed to make life-saving decisions," said UHL Director Christopher Atchison. "The new BSL-3 adds capacity in central Iowa and serves as an important alternative location to our Iowa City facility. This highly specialized lab will provide confirmatory testing in hours rather than days."

BSL-3 laboratories have the ability to test in a safe and controlled environment for infectious agents that could cause serious or potentially lethal diseases. The UHL's BSL-3 facility provides rapid testing for diseases such as tuberculosis and avian influenza and other agents that may be used for bioterrorism.

"This facility allows us to work with highly pathogenic agents to not only protect our employees, but to protect co-workers in the lab and the community from potential exposure to these agents," said Mike Pentella, Ph.D., UHL associate director. "Without this BSL-3, we cannot do this work that is vital for the safety and security of Iowans."

The Ankeny facility and its sister BSL-3 lab at the Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City are members of the nationwide Laboratory Response Network (LRN), an integrated network of state and local public health, federal, military and international laboratories that respond to bioterrorism, chemical terrorism and other public health emergencies. This unprecedented program began in 1999 through the joint efforts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located on the UI's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals, and citizens. UHL is part of the University of Iowa and has developed and maintained effective and productive collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and local public health agencies.

UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. In addition to performing analyses by specified methods, the UHL provides methods development and procedure verification for nonroutine analyses. Additional information about UHL, its programs and services is available online at

STORY SOURCE: University Hygienic Laboratory, 102 Oakdale Campus, H101 OH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-5002

MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Blake, 319-335-4177,