Cunningham lab prepares for bioterrorism

Valerie Maczak


A Cunningham Hall lab renovation may help save the lives of bioterrorism victims.

Improvements to a previously unoccupied lab in room 311 will house a biosafety training lab as part of the Northeast Ohio Consortium for Biopreparedness, said Chris Woolverton, associate professor of biological sciences and faculty coordinator for the consortium.

The lab will headquarter the consortium, providing space and equipment to prepare local and state health department workers for bioterrorism attacks, Woolverton said.

The consortium will use the lab to train public health personnel and scientists in many areas of bioterrorism, including detection, prevention, treatment and biosafety drills, Woolverton said. The state of the art equipment will even allow for DNA analysis.

“This is a great opportunity for Kent State,” Woolverton said. “We’re on the map for a center for public health preparedness and in assisting with regional and national bioterrorism.”

Planning for the project began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, when government officials recognized the threat of anthrax after discovering infected letters circulating in the postal system, Woolverton said.

Grant monies awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August 2004 initially totaled $750,000, said Connie Hawke, director of federal relations and associate university counsel. Budget cuts across the board ultimately left $698,926 to complete the project, Hawke said.

The grant allocated approximately $400,000 for construction and $200,000 for lab equipment, Woolverton said.

Construction of the 900-square-foot space began in mid-May, said Jay Graham, associate architect for the university and project manager of the renovation.

Construction crews are currently “roughing-in” the lab by installing utility conduits, pipe work and other elements unseen by users, Graham said.

The project is on schedule and finishing work, including drywall, cabinetry and fixture installation is expected to begin soon, Graham said.

Graham said he anticipates finishing the project by late August or early September.

Woolverton said the lab’s dedication is planned for Oct. 12, a significant date to the project.

“Oct. 12 is nearly four years to the day of discovering anthrax in the mail,” Woolverton said.

Contact building, grounds and transportation reporter Valerie Maczak at [email protected].