State to replace its central lab with new facility in Howard


The state intends to replace its aging central medical laboratory in Baltimore with a $150 million facility in Howard County, with construction expected to begin in three years.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday announced that he included $9.4 million in his proposed capital budget for fiscal year 2007 for the initial design work on the lab, to be operated by the Laboratories Administration, a division of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The laboratory will be about 200,000 square feet and built on 15 to 18 acres of state-owned property near the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

The department operates four labs, employing a combined total of about 300 scientists and support staff. The central lab in Baltimore is by the far the largest, with about 260 employees, and it is there where testing is conducted on samples requiring complex examination.

The central lab was built in the 1960s. It needs extensive maintenance and has severe space limitations, said Dr. John M. DeBoy, director of the Laboratories Administration.

"The equipment is too old to be repaired," he said. "Maryland needs a modern central laboratory to deal with emerging diseases and terrorist threats."

The labs perform many functions, but among the most important, DeBoy said, are identifying and controlling diseases, testing newborns for hereditary disorders, specialized testing for such things as rabies and West Nile virus, and terrorist threats.

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