SPRINGFIELD – Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Police and the Capital Development Board today joined Southern Illinois University (SIU) President Glenn Poshard to unveil the Springfield Combined Laboratory Addition, a new facility that expands vital testing space for Homeland Security, public safety and medical research.
“Opening a new building is a tremendous leap forward, not only for our medical school, but also for the many publics we serve. The laboratories in this addition here on the SIU School of Medicine campus will help us advance many Homeland Security, public safety and research projects, especially those involving biological sciences and infectious diseases,” said Glenn Poshard, President of Southern Illinois University. “We want to thank Gov. Blagojevich and the state legislators for their continued support. Because of their help, this addition also frees up labs in other campus locations for cancer research, so we can continue to aggressively expand the research efforts of the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU.”
The 105,000-square-foot, five-story addition to the SIU School of Medicine building in Springfield features the recently-completed Bio-Safety Level 3 Enhanced Lab operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the School of Medicine on the third floor. The second floor includes medical research laboratories used by the School of Medicine. The facility will also feature space for a new State Police Forensic Lab on the top two floors.
The $30.4 million Combined Laboratory Addition project began in December 2001, and construction was completed in late 2004. It provided additional space for existing School of Medicine and Public Health labs that were located in the original building at 825 N. Rutledge, and both occupied their new spaces in July 2006. An estimated $4.8 million project will finish and equip the fourth and part of the fifth floors for the State Police, with construction set to begin in late 2006 with completion by late 2007.
“Gov. Blagojevich has dedicated $4.8 million for a new State Police lab that will not only ‘complete’ this building, but fulfill a vision to improve the state’s laboratory services for a number of important government agencies,” said Jan Grimes, Executive Director of the Capital Development Board, the agency that manages all state construction projects.
The Illinois Department of Public Health operates the only downstate Bio-Safety Level 3 Enhanced Lab from the building. Here, carefully controlled testing is done to identify and fight bio-terrorism agents, pandemics, and many communicable diseases. Standard Public Health testing of food and water supplies, rabies, and blood is also performed here in a secure environment that places an emphasis on employee and public safety. A total of 40 highly trained personnel work in the Public Health Lab.
“The new Bio-Safety Level 3 enhanced lab is very important to our emergency response efforts for bio-terrorism. We can continue to add testing capabilities for more pathogens. It also means there is more room so the state’s capacity to respond to a natural (such as pandemic flu) or man-made (terrorism) event is greater,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.
SIU School of Medicine will use space on the first, second and third floors, including 11 research laboratories that meet requirements for Biological Safety Level 2 labs. There is new space for the research imaging facility, which includes electron microscopy, and for the animal medicine unit. SIU’s Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology is now based in the building, and will expand its research in molecular biology as part of its emphasis on gene research, post-genomic medicine and infectious diseases.
The space will also be used for the medical school’s graduate programs in pharmacology, immunology, microbiology, biochemistry, cell biology and physiology, including a new joint program with the Illinois Department of Public Health offering a master’s degree in public health laboratory science.
“This new addition will help SIU School of Medicine be more competitive for national grants because we now have additional space for research including new, sophisticated equipment,” added Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of the medical school. “Training for students, residents and graduate students also will benefit from these new resources and can be expanded with additional programs such as the new master’s in public health laboratory science.”
The fourth and part of the fifth floors, when complete, will be the new home of the State Police Forensic Lab that is now located in substandard space in a converted office building at 2040 Hill Meadows in Springfield. The new facility is being designed and built as a laboratory with the appropriate environmental controls and mechanical requirements necessary for modern law enforcement use. The laboratory’s 44 employees will perform DNA and biology testing for police case work; drug chemistry; trace chemistry analysis on items such as arson debris, paint and glass; firearms examination, including tool marks; footwear tread pattern analysis; document and handwriting examination; and latent fingerprint examination.
“We are excited about moving into the new SIU Combined Laboratory Facility in Springfield next year,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent. “This state-of-the-art facility will allow us to provide forensic services to 300 law enforcement agencies in 33 Central Illinois counties and assist them in solving crimes in their communities.”
Today’s tour was held to coincide with President Poshard’s visit to the SIU School of Medicine as part of his inaugural tour of all SIU campuses.