View Larger Image
| LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will use a $7.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to expand infectious disease research capacity and establish a Pandemic Response and Public Health Laboratory by renovating existing research spaces.
The renovation will create approximately 9,900 square feet of additional research space on the first floor of the One Biomedical Research Center Building. The extra space will be realized through a redesign that uses an atrium, a large diagonal hallway, and transforms an office into a laboratory.
Daniel Voth, Ph.D. UAMS, which is leading the project, said renovations are expected to begin in mid-2024 and complete by 2025. This will include a new Biosafety Level-3 chamber, equipped to deal with highly contagious infections. airborne pathogens. This will better prepare UAMS for future pandemic responses, create new opportunities for collaboration and help UAMS recruit new infectious disease researchers, he said.
The Pandemic Response and Public Health Laboratory will be available for a rapid response to the next outbreak. It will also soon be available to process human samples for COVID-19 studies and population health studies in the state and mid-South.
“If a researcher in Northwest Arkansas has a sample of human serum from their population there, they can send it to us for safe processing, or they can come to process it here,” said Voth, professor and chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
UAMS has a research program studying tuberculosis, plague, COVID-19, and Q fever in a small Biosafety Level-3 facility. The renovation will expand the program and allow the study of new pathogens that will benefit Arkansas and the global community.
“While we were able to do some great collaborative research on COVID-19, we were also limited because we were so squeezed in space,” Voth said. “We had a number of collaboration requests from other research institutes that we were unable to fulfill because we didn’t have enough space for the Level-3 Biosafety facility.”
Voth also said the grant award highlights that infectious disease research is a priority for the NIH and UAMS.
Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., UAMS vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, said the renovation would bring UAMS closer to being the top three. US News & World Report-ranked academic medical center in the Southeast Region — a key goal of the UAMS Vision 2029 strategic plan.
“What really excites me is the emphasis on expanding our ability to conduct safe and secure research on infections,” Ho said. “The additional capacity will help us tackle some of the emerging diseases and antibiotic-resistant pathogens, and we can make a huge impact on the health of our country.”
Voth said grant applications have greatly benefited from the promise of significant support from UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, MD, MBA; Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D.; Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Susan Smyth, MD, Ph.D.; and Ho.
Project team leaders also include:
- Christine Simecka, DVM, facilities manager
- Mohamed Elasri, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and Innovation
- Kate Loyd, biosafety officer and Biosafety Level-3 facility manager
- Jonathan Davies, project manager
- Al Graham, director of UAMS . Planning, Design and Construction
Grant C-06, 1C06OD032002-01A1, awarded by the Office of the NIH Director.
UAMS is the state’s only university of health sciences, with faculties of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; graduate school; hospital; the main campus in Little Rock; Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; regional campus network across the state; and seven institutes: Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Institute of Spine & Neuroscience, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Research Institute of Psychiatry, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Institute for Translation Research and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation . UAMS includes UAMS Health, the statewide healthcare system that includes all UAMS clinical companies. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,047 students, 873 medical residents and associates, and six dental residents. It is the largest publicly traded company in the state with more than 11,000 employees, including 1,200 doctors providing care to patients at UAMS, its regional campus, Arkansas Children’s, VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com. Find us on facebook, TwitterYouTube or Instagram.