In February 2002, consultations between the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and its Blue Ribbon Panel on Bioterrorism produced several recommendations for NIAID to better protect people from the threat of bioterrorism. Fulfilling some of those recommendations required more laboratory space for working with dangerous pathogens than was previously available in the United States. In September 2003 and September 2005, NIAID announced the recipients of grants partially funding the construction of two National Biocontainment Laboratories (NBLs) and thirteen Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBLs), increasing Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) and BSL-3 lab space nationwide.
The NBLs and RBLs are operated by the grant recipients, research institutions across the country. These labs support biodefense and emerging infectious diseases research as resources that provide lab space for basic research of dangerous pathogens and development of new vaccines and treatments. The NBLs are required to have BSL-4, BSL-3, and BSL-2 labs, animal facilities, insectary facilities, clinical facilities, and research support space. The RBLs are required to have BSL-3 and BSL-2 labs, animal facilities, and research support space. While fulfilling the need of researchers occupying the facility, the NBLs and RBLs can be used by other biodefense researchers within the region, particularly those within the Regional Centers of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. In addition, these labs are available to provide assistance to national, state, and local public health efforts during a biological attack.
Regional Centers of Excellence
The Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (RCEs) are consortia of universities and research institutions that pursue research with the intentions of producing therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics for pathogens that could be used in a bioterrorist attack or could become more widespread. Activities within the RCEs include developing and conducting research programs, training new scientists in research activities, and developing and maintaining facilities and services supportive of activities of the RCEs and other regional biodefense investigators. The RCEs also develop effective treatments and treatment strategies from basic research findings and provide first-line responders with facilities and support during a biological attack.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) created the RCE program in response to a recommendation from meetings between the NIAID and its Blue Ribbon Panel on Bioterrorism in February 2002. By June 2005, NIAID had established a total of ten RCEs in ten geographical regions across the country. Each RCE is composed of the investigators from the lead institution that submitted the application and collaborating investigators at universities and research institutions within the consortium. The consortia have access to resources such as facilities and services within the RCE and the National Biocontainment Laboratories and the Regional Biocontainment Laboratories.