Wednesday, June 4, 2003
RICHMOND, Va. – The
Virginia Biotechnology Research Park will host the grand opening of its newest
building, biotech six, which will be occupied by one of the most advanced
laboratories in the United States, the Virginia Division of Consolidated
Laboratory Services (DCLS).
Gov. Mark Warner, Secretary
of Administration Sandra Bowen and Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of
the American Public Health Association, will be keynote speakers before hundreds
of invited guests at the dedication, Monday, June 9 at 10 a.m. at the Park.
DCLS provides a full range of
services to the Commonwealth, testing everything from fertilizers, water, air,
gasoline and lottery tickets to blood samples from all infants born in Virginia
as part of the Commonwealth’s newborn screening program.
The new $63 million, 194,500
square-foot facility will be one of five laboratories in the United States
equipped with Biosafety Level 4 (BSL4) lab space specifically designed to meet
worldwide standards for safely handling the most dangerous pathogens.
The facility also will contain BSL3 lab and training space, appropriate
for working with infectious microbes, and laboratories designed to work with
chemical agents of terrorism.
Virginia is unique in
consolidating all of its labs into one division and under one roof, according to
Dr. James L. Pearson, director of the DCLS.
“This gives us tremendous flexibility and the ability to offer a wide
range of services to Virginia and to the country,” Pearson said.
As the newest tenants of the
Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, DCLS will join the Virginia Division of
Forensic Science, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the United
Network for Organ Sharing, along with 42 private life-science companies, four
Virginia Commonwealth University Institutes and more than a half-dozen
“The Virginia Division of
Consolidated Laboratory Services is not only an important facility in protecting
the health and welfare of the citizens and communities across the Commonwealth,
it is nationally recognized as one of the most comprehensive labs anywhere in the
country,” said Robert T. Skunda, President and CEO of the Virginia
Biotechnology Research Park. “This
lab will complement the growing number of companies and research institutes
located in the Park and will help extend our reputation as the new East Coast
center for biosciences.”
The dedication coincides with
the annual meeting of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), June
8-10 in Richmond. The association
represents governmental laboratories whose work is to protect the public’s
health. Attendees will participate
in the dedication and tour the new facility.
laboratory is more than a state resource,” said APHL executive director Scott
Becker. “It’s a national asset
that strengthens our capacity to respond to bioterrorism and other health
The consolidated laboratory
provides analytical testing services to the Commonwealth of Virginia, other
states and the federal government as requested.
The facility is also home to some specialty laboratories of the Virginia
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services which test the integrity of
seeds sold in Virginia, certify standard weights and performs plant pathology
DCLS laboratory staff conduct
more than 3 million scientific tests each year to help ensure a safe and healthy
environment. It is part of the
national Laboratory Response Network, and is inspected by the Centers for
Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental
Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, among others. The
Virginia Consolidated Laboratory was the first consolidated laboratory in the
nation to offer a wide variety of scientific testing in support of state
The Virginia Biotechnology
Research Park is a joint initiative of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia
Commonwealth University and the City of Richmond.
The Park, situated on 34 acres adjacent to VCU’s campus, has currently
developed 575,000 square feet of research, laboratory, office and support space,
accounting for the employment of over 1,200 people.
When fully developed, the park will contain over 1.5 million square feet
of space in 18 to 20 buildings and employ 3,000 scientists, researchers,
engineers and technicians. The
Virginia Biotechnology Research Park is fast gaining notoriety as the East Coast
location for bioscience companies and researchers.