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Press Release

For Immediate Release: December 15, 2000
Contact: CDC Media Relations (404) 639-3286

CDC inaugurates high-tech lab: new state-of-the-art facility for studying HIV, flu and polio

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will celebrate the opening of its new state-of-the-art research facility, the Edward R. Roybal Laboratory Building, on December 18. The first phase of the building was occupied in October just as CDC officially launched its $1 billion, ten-year construction plan that will permit the agency to meet the challenges of actively protecting the Nation's health and safety in the 21st century. Congressional Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (Congressman Roybal's daughter), John Lewis and Mac Collins, Johnny Isakson and CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, are among the speakers at the ribbon- cutting ceremony at the Roybal Campus on Clifton Road.

Many of the disease-causing agents studied in the new laboratory are highly contagious microorganisms or cause devastating diseases, such as influenza, rabies, tuberculosis and HIV. Less common microbes such as polio, anthrax and meningitis are studied there as well. The Roybal Laboratory Building is a secure facility that protects the scientists and the environment. The laboratories are designed as biosafety level (BSL)-2, BSL-3 and enhanced BSL-3. Each level provides the appropriate degree of containment depending on the characteristics of the microorganism under investigation.

The Roybal Laboratory has two parts. Phase I contains 100,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, which can house a maximum of 240 scientists. Phase II is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2001, adding another 50,000 square feet to house an additional 144 scientists.

"As we celebrate the opening of the Roybal Infectious Disease Building, we must realize that we are just beginning a decade-long process to provide our first rate employees with the first rate tools they need to protect people's health and safety," says Koplan. "We at CDC are grateful for the support from the Atlanta business community, the Georgia delegation and Congress that has made it possible to build these facilities necessary to meet the Nation's public health demands."

The ten-year construction and renovation plan, which has yet to be fully funded, will address overcrowding and antiquated facilities at CDC's two Atlanta-based campuses and reduce the need to rent office space. The two campuses are the Roybal Campus at 1600 Clifton Road in Atlanta and the Chamblee Campus at 4770 Buford Highway. All projects should be underway by 2009, but many will be completed before then. The entire plan is scheduled for completion by 2012.

With each new public health emergency comes an additional burden on the nation's capacity to respond. A bioterrorism crisis, a global flu pandemic, a large scale environmental threat to people's health, or a new unforeseen public health danger would present a challenge for which CDC needs to be prepared. The 1997 outbreak of H5N1 influenza in Hong Kong required CDC to temporarily halt research on some diseases in order to create laboratory space for flu research.

Currently, many CDC staff work in crowded conditions. Some staff are working in spaces that were converted from bathrooms and closets. At the Chamblee campus, some scientists are working in buildings that were meant to be temporary World War II facilities that are now 60 years old.

"CDC is charged with protecting the Nation from the toughest health concerns that face us today: infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, chronic diseases such as heart disease - the leading killer of Americans -- and tobacco use, to name a few," says Koplan. "To meet this challenge, we must have adequate space and equipment to do that. The investment is certainly a good one given that CDC research and programs have saved the Nation billions of dollars in health care costs in addition to enabling people to live longer and healthier lives."

The laboratory was named after Congressman Edward R. Roybal who served in Congress from1963 to1992 and was founder and President of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. During his tenure, he served as an outstanding public health leader, responsible for securing funding for every new CDC building in the last decade, including the new Edward R. Roybal Laboratory Building. Mr. Roybal's own career began as a public health educator with the California Tuberculosis Association and later as Director of Health Education for the Los Angeles County TB and Health Association. As a member of Congress, Mr. Roybal not only secured funding for needed laboratories and facilities but also for research, including CDC's first funding for AIDS research and programs in 1982. Currently, Mr. Roybal is serving as a consultant to the Institute for Applied Gerontology which bears his name at California State University, Los Angeles. He is also President of the Edward R. Roybal Foundation which is dedicated to providing scholarships to deserving students to attend college. His son, Edward R. Roybal, Jr., will represent him at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

Note to media: The ceremony will be from 2 p.m.-3 p.m., followed by tours and a reception. Guests should drive on Clifton Road to Houston Mill Road, turn south and follow signs to the parking deck toward the back of the CDC campus.


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