Thirteen years after building a state-of-the-art lab for the world's most dangerous germs, the nation's top public health agency is asking for more than $400 million to build a new one, the AP reports. Officials at the CDC say the current lab building in Atlanta is quickly wearing down and cannot be upgraded without shutting down the facility for years. The lab investigates deadly and exotic germs like Ebola, smallpox, and dangerous new forms of flu. The CDC lab is one of only eight US labs with the security and safety features necessary to work with the highest-threat germs, said James Le Duc, director of one of them, the University of Texas's Galveston National Laboratory. Five of the eight are run by the federal government.
The CDC lab is housed in a 400,000-square-foot building located in the heart of its main campus. It uses eye scanners and other James Bond-like security measures to restrict access. Workers wear protective gear and there's a web of computerized systems that monitor workers, lock doors, and ensure that dangerous germs don't escape. It opened in 2005 and cost $214 million, although the lab area that handles the most fearsome bugs didn't begin work until 2009. It replaced a CDC lab that had operated for 20 years. The architect firm that worked on it, HDR Inc., predicted the building would serve the CDC for 50 years. Some experts said they are a little surprised CDC is talking about replacing the high-containment lab so soon. "Having a lab being replaced after about 12 years seems unusual," said the director of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University.