FDA plans to build facility for $84 million near UM Scientists to share site with faculty, students

April 16, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- In a move to consolidate some of its offices, the Food and Drug Administration will bring about 930 jobs from scattered sites in Maryland and Washington to a campus to be built here by the turn of the century, officials announced yesterday.

In addition, through an agreement signed yesterday, FDA scientists at the new location will share research and facilities with students and faculty at the nearby University of Maryland College Park.

The plan will bring to the new site the sections of the FDA that deal with food safety and veterinary medicine. These facilities, now housed in four locations in Washington and Montgomery County, will be built on a two- to four-building campus, at a cost of $84 million.

"The FDA and the university will work together to protect the nation's food supply from contamination and to promote nutrition," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said at a ceremony attended by some of Maryland's congressional delegation, state and local officials and university officials.

Officials portrayed the move as a triumph for the state. But it came after Congress last year cut off funding and effectively killed a more ambitious $600 million plan to consolidate FDA's headquarters and thousands of jobs in northern Montgomery County. Maryland's delegation has proposed an alternative site in the White Oak area of Montgomery.

The FDA has been under attack by some Republicans who say its regulatory process for new drugs is too lengthy and cumbersome. But Ms. Mikulski said that facilities at the new site and sophisticated research developed through the relationship with the university would help streamline the FDA's regulatory process.

Ms. Mikulski and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who sit on appropriations committees in the Senate and House, helped shepherd the College Park plan through Congress. Even though the FDA role in drug approval has been harshly criticized, Mr. Hoyer noted, there was little dissent in Congress over this project.

"This is as good an expenditure as they will make," Mr. Hoyer said, referring to taxpayers.

The agreement between the FDA and the university creates the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which will offer internships and training to university students and shared research, equipment and workshops for FDA scientists and UM faculty.

"There are tremendous fiscal advantages," said William E. Kirwan, president of the College Park campus. "The FDA can use some very sophisticated facilities [at the university]. And they can concentrate their resources on instruments and facilities that we don't have."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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