“ Historically , I likened our laboratory to poor church mice looking for crumbs and largely ignored ,” Desmond said . “ That ’ s not the case now . Federal funds have come in , and we also have a great deal of support from the state .”
In fact , his division in Hawaii has received federal funding to turn its biosafety level 3 ( BSL-3 ) laboratory into a BSL-3 + laboratory , providing a higher level of precautions . “ We think this is important because of concerns about future pandemics ,” Desmond said . “ If the pandemic is caused by the worst virus you can imagine , and you had an accident in one of the laboratory rooms , the virus could be discharged through the exhaust ventilation , and we don ’ t want that to happen .”
Hawaii has also received funding to purchase new equipment , refurbish one of the laboratory suites into a molecular biology suite , and hire new staff , including a bioinformatics specialist and a molecular biologist who together created a bioinformatics pipeline . Several state legislators have also introduced a bill that would fund public health laboratory upgrades . ( As of March 2022 , House Bill 2515 was with Hawaii ’ s House Ways and Means Committee .)
Minnesota also received federal dollars that covered new staff , COVID-19 testing and sequencing , infrastructure enhancements , updates to information technology systems and interoperability , Kunas said . And though the laboratory building is only 16 years old , Kunas said there have been significant problems through the years , including a major flood in 2014 . There has been ongoing work to repair valves and corroded duct work . The laboratory had requested state money several times for repairs and additions , but it wasn ’ t until October 2020 that a large amount was provided : $ 20 million for building repairs and upgrades .
Historically , I likened our laboratory to poor church mice looking for crumbs and largely ignored . That ’ s not the case now . Federal funds have come in , and we also have a great deal of support from the state .”
Edward Desmond , PhD
“ I have to admit that I do think that COVID-19 played a role in us getting those funds ,” Kunas said . “ I think there ’ s been significant understanding from the Legislature that when you say monitoring of contaminants , that doesn ’ t mean you collect a sample and you get a result . There needs to be this testing infrastructure in place in order to make that all happen . … So , I do think that there ’ s a lot more acknowledgement of the importance of labs throughout the country .” n