Regions Shenandoah Valley

New animal lab enhances state’s disease research

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by Heather B. Hayes

A new animal laboratory in Harrisonburg is expected to help the state conduct a greater range of testing for diseases such as avian influenza.

The $7.4 million Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services facility also adds to the region’s growing reputation as a center for biotech research, says Brian Shull, Harrisonburg’s director of economic development.

A few weeks after the lab’s November dedication, California-based SRI International broke ground on its SRI Shenandoah Valley facility at the Rockingham Center for Research and Technology. The company will focus on finding faster and more effective therapies for diseases often neglected by other drug companies.

In dedicating the 23,661-square-foot animal lab, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine referred to it as the “flagship” of the department’s five-laboratory network. It replaces a cramped, outdated lab.

The facility includes a high-security testing room, which allows researchers to test for anthrax and West Nile virus, as well as other potentially contagious diseases. Researchers also will be able to perform pathology exams on horses, cows and other large animals, thanks to the addition of an extra-large necropsy room with a cooler and two-ton hoist. The lab also has space for a variety of inspections, including food safety, dairy testing, and poultry and egg grading.

The facility is expected to bolster the local agriculture industry by providing additional services for farmers and veterinarians, such as gross pathology and diagnostic and dairy bacteriology. 

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