The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville’s Medical Outfitting and Transition Program is assisting the U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases relocate into the largest and most complex bio-contamination facility ever designed.
The Defense Department’s lead laboratory for medical biological defense research will soon be operating in its new $677 million facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Baltimore District is responsible for the construction of the facility, set to open this year.
Julia Chlarson, Huntsville Center’s Medical O&T branch chief, said the contract ensures the more than 800 military and civilian scientists and specialized support personnel have the tools they require to investigate disease outbreaks and threats to public health.
She also said there is a difference in transitioning a facility that is mostly based around laboratory settings as opposed to the clinics and hospitals that make up the large percentage of Medical O&T projects.
“They use highly complex equipment, and we spent a lot of time working with them to discern between what they can take with them to the new facility and what needs replacement,” Chlarson said.
“We just installed the liquid nitrogen freezers and walk in refrigerators critical to sample storage all the way to the electron microscopes,” she said.
Chlarson said the $84 million outfitting and transition project for USAMRIID is a full, turn-key approach than not only focuses on moving and replacing medical equipment, but the project is unique because of the nature of the USAMRIID mission.
“Their mission is complex and the facility itself is complex. Because the facility itself has a lot of complex mechanical and infrastructure systems, we have to work very closely with Baltimore District. As they are finishing up their commissioning activities we are coming behind them and placing the equipment, so there’s a lot of coordination, and we have all worked so well together,” Chlarson said.
After Baltimore District and Huntsville Center finish their work on the facility, USAMRIID must obtain certification from agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Army and complete safety inspections before conducting research in its new labs.
Since its inception in 1969, USAMRIID has spearheaded research to develop medical solutions—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and information to protect military service members from biological threats. The Institute plays a key role as the lead military medical research laboratory for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense. USAMRIID is a subordinate laboratory of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
The Center’s Medical O&T projects support the Army’s medical mission by equipping and transitioning staff and patients into new and renovated facilities and has performed outfitting and transition operations at new Army medical facilities at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Riley, Kansas.
The Medical O&T program not only supports stateside projects, but supports projects in Europe and the Pacific, too. However, its support for the USAMRIID project is one with a truly global impact.
“Building, transitioning and outfitting new or refurbished laboratories, clinics or hospitals, is a function of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and we’re proud to be a part of the team that shares in the success of the Army Medical Command’s global mission,” Chlarson said.