Today the Prince William Board of County Supervisors authorized the transfer of $100,000 from the COVID-19 Response Special Revenue Fund to support the capital construction costs of the Caerus Vivarium, a new biomedical animal research lab in Innovation Park that will provide critical infrastructure to the thriving life sciences industry in Prince William County.
The 1500 square foot vivarium will be regulated by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee as a Bio-Safety Lab (BSL) Level 2 limited to mice and rats. The facility will be owned and operated by Caerus Discovery and housed inside the 6000 square foot Serpin Pharma lab located at 9501 Discovery Blvd, Suite 120 in Manassas.
Serpin Pharma is a graduate of the Prince William Science Accelerator and it and Caerus Discovery were founded by Dr. Cohava Gelber. Both companies have strong ties to George Mason University and maintain a mutually beneficial collaborative relationship.
“Animals are critical for biomedical research,” says Gelber. “Initial biological research is done through computer models and cell tissues; yet those models can only show us so much. U.S. federal laws, specifically the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), require that specific non-human animal research occurs to show the safety and efficacy of new treatments before any clinical trials in humans.”
Gelber noted that Caerus plans to use 25% of the new facility and the remaining 75% of the vivarium’s capacity will be available for contracted use by other organizations.
“This facility is a natural progression of our life sciences industry, and this investment ensures we can attract new biomedical interest to Innovation Park,” says Christina Winn, executive director of Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED). “We are excited to support scientists who develop therapies essential to the discovery of the causes, diagnoses and treatment of disease.”
Caerus Discovery started planning a vivarium in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic and increasingly expensive construction costs halted those plans. More than two years later, in October 2021, they finally started building out the facility.
"Prince William County’s life sciences industry has flourished during the pandemic, and we have an opportunity to use our federally allocated funds to further support these entrepreneurs,” says Ann B. Wheeler, Chair, Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “The vivarium helps build out the life science ecosystem necessary to achieve our Strategic Plan goal of a Resilient Economy by supporting these businesses in scaling up their operations.”
Although George Mason University Biomedical Research Lab houses a BSL-3 vivarium, also in Innovation Park, smaller life science companies do not need all the features and cannot afford the costs associated with a BSL-3 vivarium.
"I’m so proud that the Caerus Vivarium will join more than 60 commercial vivarium labs in the Greater Washington, D.C. region,” says Jeanine M. Lawson, Brentsville Supervisor. “With our upcoming Northern Virginia Bioscience Center opening, our Innovation Park is poised to become a national attraction for life sciences companies.”