Colorado State University has received a $6 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, to build out a high-end imaging facility at the University’s Infectious Disease Research Center on the Foothills Research Campus. The facility is connected to the Rocky Mountain Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and part of the Research Innovation Center.
“The Research Innovation Center was designed with an imaging suite as part of the overall plan, but the funding wasn’t in place to complete this part of the building beyond the physical shell,” said Dr. Ralph Smith, Associate Director of the IDRC and a Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. “When the opportunity came along to apply for a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, we decided to try to get funding to complete the interior construction.”
The RBL was completed in 2007 to add to existing federal and university infectious disease facilities at Colorado State University, and enhance research programs into infectious diseases of national and international importance. The imaging suite is designed to support that work by providing researchers with on-site access to positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging, as well as magnetic resonance imaging.
“These imaging technologies will be used primarily to help us understand the progression of disease, and to help us to understand the pathophysiology of diseases such as tuberculosis and tularemia,” said Dr. Smith. “In addition to strengthening our scientific understanding of disease progression, it will help us to understand if vaccines or treatments are effective earlier on in initial investigations.”
Dr. Smith said another important factor is that the new facility will allow researchers to significantly reduce the number of animals needed in drug intervention, vaccine, and pathophysiology studies.
The grant from NCRR will pay to upgrade existing utilities to the IDRC through an underground electrical utility connection that will provide more reliable electrical current to the center. The build-out of the imaging facility will provide rooms with magnetic shielding (for the MRI), and lead lining (for the PET/CT). The suite of rooms will have multiple configurations allowing longer-term studies, and the conduction of both Biosecurity Level 2 and Biosecurity Level 3 research programs. The new space incorporates 2,800 square feet of laboratory suites, holding rooms, specialized equipment facilities, and operations management, not including the second floor mezzanine for air handling.
Dr. Smith said the next step for the facility will be to apply for a grant that will enable purchase of the MRI and PET/CT. For now, work on the build-out is expected to begin in late fall with completion in approximately two years.