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Advancing infectious disease capabilities through biomedical research laboratory core support

Farhang Alem, Interim Director of the Biomedical Research Laboratory, Institute for Biohealth Innovation, and Aarthi Narayanan, Professor, Biology, will receive more than $12 million from the National Institute for Health to support development of Mason’s Biomedical Research Laboratory, advancing the university’s research capabilities for infectious diseases. 

George Mason University’s Biomedical Laboratory (BRL) is one of 12 Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBLs) established through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The BRL offers Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) facilities that conduct cutting edge pathogen research and serve as resources to rapidly address emerging infectious disease outbreaks. 

Funding will support a number of facility improvements including the implementation of a comprehensive BSL-3 facilities preventative maintenance and upgrade plan to ensure continuity of operations, compliance with federal regulations, and a safe and secure facility. Funding will also enhance safety and quality of BSL-3 laboratory practices and create two new research cores in high containment. 

The expanded Microphysiological Systems (MPS) core will enable organ-on-a-chip (OOC) and organoid models for lead optimization, safety assessment, off target effects, toxicity, and efficacy analysis. The Advanced Animal Research (AAR) core will support pre-clinical studies starting with in vivo exposures and countermeasure testing and transitioning to advanced animal imaging, spatial tissue, and cellular analysis. Together, these cores will accelerate vaccine and therapeutic drug discovery and improve understanding of the transmission and pathogenesis of infectious agents as well as host response.

Alem and Narayanan received $2,495,244 for year one of a five-year grant totaling $12,206,840 from the National Institute of Health for this project. Funding began in August. 2023 and will end in late July 2028.