New worldclass laboratory to be included in the federal budget?

In 2008, I had the opportunity to tour the level 4 laboratory in Winnipeg Manitoba with my boss Preston Manning.  In my day job, I am the science policy and communications adviser for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and part of our mandate at the Centre is to track policy initiatives that move Canada forward on the science, technology and innovation front.

During our visit, we were briefed on the national integrated network of research facilities and the technology which innervates it all to rapidly respond to biological hotspots as they emerge in Canada and around the world.  For example, rapid genotyping of pathogens to trace origin and spread is but one function of tracking function of the national lab in Winnipeg.  Communication is critical to rapid assessment and control of biological threats and we were treated to a glimpse of where outbreaks are monitored in the state-of-the-art “war-room” of the facility complete with banks of LCD televisions, situation desks and and digital maps with epidemiological data overlays.  While the facility serves to track and address global infectious disease, the research of level four biosafety pathogens such as the Marburg and Ebola viruses are at the foundation of the facility’s work.

Recently, I learned that the International Centre for Infectious Diseases and the University of Manitoba among others have forwarded an ambitious proposal for the upcoming federal budget which is getting a lot of buzz in the corridors of power in Ottawa.  A level 5 laboratory (L5L) has been proposed for the Winnipeg facility and such an infrastructure development would make it the facility the only one of its kind in the world.  The facility would continue to study biosafety level 4 pathogens but would do so in a sophisticated and unparalleled environment which would include a realistic hospital-like training facility, simulation facilities and a containment hospital ward replete with multiple airlocks.

Of course, Marburg and Ebola are of periodic global concern.  From a Canadian public policy perspective, the greatest sustained value of the facility would be tracking, research and containment of hospital acquired infections such as C. difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus.  Hospital patients that acquire surgical infections find their survivability halved.

The proponents of the new facility project a 20% reduction in cases of hospital acquired infections by 2019.  They suggest that over 30 years of innovation and subsequent intervention accomplished through work at the facility, over $40 billion (healthcare costs and would-be lost wages) would be saved.

I know that this proposal has been presented to the ministers of industry, health, transport (infrastructure) and the minister of state for science and technology.  It has been well-received by many of them and I know that the proposal is being seriously considered.  If the budget this month is to include significant infrastructure development, such a world-class project would solidify Canada’s position as a leader in the research and treatment of infectious disease.  The $300 million facility would create highly skilled jobs, retain high value workers in Canada, export skills training to the US and overseas, provide testing facilities for commericial research and products and provide extensive support for the health services sector.

Comments

comments

  • herringchoker

    Would that be the National MIcrobiology Lab that B. Mulroney ordered them to build in Winnipeg? As I recall Preston criticized it as a white elephant, a sad attempt by the Tories to curry favour in the West.

  • http://blog.ederek.net dbo789

    Totally off topic, but I do find it funny that Preston thinks most British Columbians, Albertans, and Saskatchewanians (Had to look that demonym up) consider Winnipeg to be part of the “west”.

  • Liz J

    Now that would be money well invested! Whether it's West, East or in between is hardly a factor, neither is it political, it's for the common good of all Canadians and beyond.

    Patients acquiring post surgery, antibiotic resistant infections, is a frighteningly all too frequent occurrence.
    If they do survive their life is often drastically altered as is their lifespan.

    Folks, this is beyond politics.

  • prairie fire

    Winnipeg is part of the west. Or did you think it was part of the middle east? You must be from the “Toronto of the West” ie. Calgary. Mr. Manning is factually correct.

    Back on topic, here's a history lesson for you. The facility was constructed to compensate the fall out over taking away the CF-18 contract back in 1987. Ask Jake Epp and he will give you the details. The contract cancellation (in favour of a Montreal firm) played a huge role in the beginning of the Reform Party, which is why Mr. Manning would have criticized the lab at the time. It was seen a an attempt to buy off Manitobans who were cheated out of a legitimate contract by an eastern firm.

    That being said, the lab is a state of the art facility and has the potential to be truly world class.

  • http://blog.ederek.net dbo789

    The term “the west” is entirely subjective. Quebec is west of Newfoundland. I am factually correct. However, no one is going to call Quebec 'the west'.

    That said, in the typical, modern image of the west in Canada, Manitoba is largely absent, or an afterthought. Western protest and separation movements for the most part most anything east of Saskatchewan, and people who feel affected by western alienation aren't going to see something located in Winnipeg as a victory for their cause.

    Sorry to say it, but sending federal money to Manitoba is pretty much only going to excite Manitobans.

  • prairie fire

    Western alienation only applies to Sask, Alberta and BC? I don't think so. The Reform Party's founding assembly was in Winnipeg. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I respectfully disagree.

    Building the capacity of the lab is good for Canada, western Canada and Manitoba.

  • http://darcymeyers.wordpress.com Darcy Meyers

    That certainly is an exciting proposal. The facility in Winnipeg is a marvel and this investment would put Canada (or secure us) on the forefront in combating these diseases. Especially MRSA which is the most significant public threat you listed, in my opinion. I don't know about the numbers, but generally investments in this type of innovation pay off many -fold.

    Will it be politically popular enough to warrant such an investment? It appears so from your comments.
    It is encouraging to hear innovation investments are featuring prominently into the budget plans. It is innovation that will move us forward and grow the economy of tomorrow. Government can play an important role in that progress.

    Cheers Stephen.
    Darcy

  • ken

    So… you don't think the private sector could do this better/faster/cheaper? That's dangerous stuff you're dealing in. Next thing you know you'll be coming out in favour of single-payer health care.

    Seriously – this is EXACTLY the right sort of investment to make. It provides short term construction work, AND helps secure Canada's future as a world-class source of “intellectual” wealth. We need more of this type of thoughtful investment.

  • ken

    So… you don't think the private sector could do this better/faster/cheaper? That's dangerous stuff you're dealing in. Next thing you know you'll be coming out in favour of single-payer health care.

    Seriously – this is EXACTLY the right sort of investment to make. It provides short term construction work, AND helps secure Canada's future as a world-class source of “intellectual” wealth. We need more of this type of thoughtful investment.