Cures for diseases are created by understanding the pathogens that cause them, and developing medication to combat the disease-causing microbes. In order to do that, the germs must be studied, for which they need to be kept in a laboratory, and this holds true for even the worst bacteria and viruses known to humankind.

One such facility, a state-of-the-art building in Atlanta that opened in 2005, is run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is one of the only eight of its kind across the country. It is home (or prison) to highly contagious and very deadly pathogens such as smallpox, Ebola, and various strains of the flu. The CDC is of the view that the building would be worn down and become unsafe by 2023, and that upgrading it would mean shutting it down for years. Therefore, it wants a new laboratory for keeping these deadly microorganisms, one it wants $400 million for.

The plans for the new lab were announced Friday, and the CDC also sent a request to Congress for approving the budget, of which $350 million would be spent on the lab itself and the remaining money on other related works, the Associated Press reported. Since the construction would require four years, the money would need to be allocated right away if the 2023 deadline is to be met.

The current lab is in an 11-storey, 400,000-square-foot concrete building that cost $214 million to build, replacing an older lab that served the CDC for 20 years. Even though the building itself became operational in 2005, the lab began work only in 2009, meaning it would have served a total of 14 functional years if it is replaced in 2023. HDR, Inc., an architecture and engineering company from Omaha, Nebraska, built the facility, and predicted that CDC would use the building for at least 50 years.

Given the high-risk nature of the work done in the lab, a number of safety procedures are in place, and it is categorized as BSL-4, the highest of the four biosafety levels for risk and security. The building has had a few problematic incidents, such as the failure of a decontamination shower in 2009 and a fire in a lower-level lab in 2015.

To spend another $400 million on a lab, on top of the money spent on it only 13 years ago, may seem to some like a stretch, especially given the fact that it houses deadly germs that are of no good to anyone. But it would not be possible to create vaccines and medicines for a whole host of diseases if researchers stopped studying the pathogens that cause them. Microbes also tend to evolve pretty fast, so having a record of them could also allow researchers to compare different strains, if needed.