SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Senator Bill Cassidy announced Friday that he secured $7 million in appropriation to support the Center for Medical Education and Emerging Viral Threats.

The money is meant to support the expansion of the new Center for Medical Education building, medical research, and clinical trials to test treatments combating infections. Additional lab space will be added, and the Center for Emerging Viral Threats will be incorporated into the building.

“This supports a strategy by which LSU Health Shreveport can better track the spread of coronavirus now and other infections in the future. This keeps us healthier and lowers health care costs. It also expands research possibilities to create more and better-paying jobs,” said Dr. Cassidy. The appropriation will supplement $50 million in state, local, and philanthropic giving.

The laboratory will be upgraded to Biosafety Level 3. That means that researchers will perform all experiments in biosafety cabinets. BSL-3 labs are designed to be decontaminated easily. Technicians must have specific training in handling indigenous or exotic agents and are supervised by scientists with experience in them.

The Center for Emerging Viral Threats at LSUHS recently found every sample sequenced in their February report was of the omicron variant. One of those samples was found to be the BA.2 sublineage. Although BA.2 is the most dominant of the omicron variants in the United States, this is the first time it has been found in north Louisiana.

“The good news is that we have the resources within the Center of Emerging Viral Threats to sequence SARS-CoV-2 genomes,” said Ph.D., Director of Viral Genomics and Surveillance for the Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats at LSUHS Krista Queen. “Without this, our genomic surveillance efforts in north Louisiana would not be as successful.

Ph.D. Vice Chancellor for Research at LSU Health Shreveport Chris Kevil says the funding will strengthen their ability to improve public health and protect the public against present and future viral threats. He says this funding will pave the way for the center to become a national leader in research.

According to Cassidy, new pharmaceutical trials can be done more often, and capabilities for surveillance of new and returning pathogens will expand. Underserved populations in rural areas of northwest Louisiana will have better access to care, providing more effective protection against pandemics and outbreaks.