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Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 01/20/2010

Maryland moves forward on new public health lab

By Washington Post editors

Maryland officials announced today that planning for a new state-of-the-art public health laboratory to replace the current facility will move foward after the Board of Public Works approved an agreement between the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of General Services and the Maryland Economic Development Corporation.

The new facility, which will replace one opened in 1974, is slated to be built by September 2013 and will be located in East Baltimore in the Science and Technology Park at Johns Hopkins.

The board approved $6.45 million to begin designing of the new laboratory, designed to help Maryland respond more quickly to public health incidents, including emerging epidemics, foodborne outbreaks and incidents of bioterrorism. Total cost of the laboratory is estimated at $180 million. It will be funded through bonds issued by the economic development corporation and back by the Department of Mental Hygiene lease.

The State laboratory acts as an early warning system for public health threats, so that threats such as the drug resistance to H1N1 influenza can be identified, tracked, and quickly contained.

"As the H1N1 (Swine) flu experience clearly demonstrated, the public health laboratory is the backbone of Maryland's public health system," said John M. Colmers, DHMH Secretary. "The investment we are making today will provide Maryland families with decades of protection against disease and illness."

By Washington Post editors  | January 20, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
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