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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 25, 2006

UI Breaks Ground For New University Hygienic Laboratory

University of Iowa leaders, along with state and local officials, gathered today to break ground at the site of construction of the new University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL).

The new laboratory, to be built on the UI's Oakdale Research Campus, will replace the UHL's existing operations currently housed in the 89-year-old Oakdale Hall.

"Today marks a milestone moment for the University Hygienic Laboratory and for the state of Iowa," said UI Interim President Gary Fethke. "Once completed, this new facility will provide UHL staff members with the space and facilities needed to remain at the forefront of serving the public health needs of all Iowans."

Construction on the $37.75 million, 112,500-square-foot laboratory will begin in 2007 and is scheduled for completion by late 2009. Earlier this year, the Iowa Legislature allocated $36 million for the new facility.

"We are extremely grateful to the Iowa Legislature and to our federal delegation for their diligence and commitment in helping make this building a reality," said UI Vice President for Research Meredith Hay. "Without question, their support not only underscores their commitment to public health but also to the health of future generations of Iowans."

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state's environmental and public health laboratory. UHL staff members provide testing services for diseases such as influenza, mumps, whooping cough and West Nile virus; drinking and recreational water testing; air and environmental quality monitoring; and surveillance of potential biological and chemical agents. UHL personnel also screen all babies born in Iowa for a host of metabolic disorders. Outreach, education and training also are part of the UHL's overall mission.

"This new building demonstrates Iowa's continuing commitment to assuring that the best of public health science is available for the protection of every Iowan," said Christopher Atchison, interim director of the UHL and associate dean for public health practice in the UI College of Public Health. "Throughout history, when new diseases have been found or outbreaks identified, it has been the public health lab worker who has been on the front lines of solving that puzzle. With this new facility, the UHL will be better able to continue its nationally recognized contribution to this outstanding record."

The Iowa General Assembly established the UHL in 1904. Its initial purpose was to identify and study the development of diphtheria, rabies, tuberculosis and typhoid fever, diseases that were dangerously prevalent in Iowa and the rest of the nation at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the UHL employs approximately 250 people at its current locations on the UI Oakdale Research Campus and the Iowa Laboratories Facility on the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Ankeny.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,