Legislature Passes Joint Resolution to Finance and Construct New State Laboratory to Detect and Identify Emerging Infections, Terrorism-Related Threat

TRENTON -- The New Jersey Legislature has passed a joint resolution authorizing the financing and construction by the New Jersey Building Authority of a new $139 million Public Health, Environmental, and Agricultural Laboratory for use by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Agriculture.


A new Public Health, Environmental, and Agricultural Laboratory is a critical resource for the protection of the health and safety of all New Jerseyans, said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, MD. This new facility will increase the States capability and capacity to detect and identify environmental contamination and human and animal diseases, including emerging infections like SARS and terrorist-related health threats.


The agriculture and food complex represents $64 billion a year to New Jerseys economy, and our ability to protect those resources is critical to ensuring our food and agricultural products are safe, said Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. With natural concerns such as Avian Influenza and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), as well as the possibility of terrorism aimed at our food supply, an upgraded laboratory is crucial.    


Among other benefits, the new state laboratory will increase the ability to perform newborn screening for metabolic abnormalities, testing for communicable diseases, evaluation for food safety, and assessment of environmental samples for possible contamination.


The new laboratory will comprise a 275,000-square-foot facility that will include specialized work areas and containment units for the safe handling and testing of terrorism agents and emerging or novel microorganisms of public health concern. The facility will also include a necropsy laboratory to detect animal borne diseases that threaten both animals and humans. A plant science laboratory greenhouse will provide evaluation and prevention of threats to the states agricultural resources.


The new laboratory will replace the current state laboratory in Trenton, currently New Jerseys only laboratory approved by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the National Laboratory Response Network of public health laboratories.  It was built 40 years ago and designed to meet public health needs of that time but has become outdated, deteriorated and too small to meet current testing demands.  The current 130,000-square-foot laboratory houses more than 200 laboratorians who perform more than 2 million tests annually.


The proposed location for the new facility will be at New Jersey State Police Headquarters site in Mercer County, placing it with other related facilities, including the new State Emergency Operations Center.


Source: New Jersey Department of Health