BRYAN -- The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has authorized the construction of a federally funded pandemic influenza facility that will help the United States respond to biological and pandemic threats.The regents voted unanimously Thursday to approve the agenda item with a gross maximum price of $78 million. Regent James Wilson was absent.Russell Wallace, with the system's facilities planning and construction, updated the regents on the project, which is planned for the Bryan-College Station Biocorridor. The facility will be one of three nationwide and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center of Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing.The federal government will pick up $176 million of the project's $285.6 million price tag.Wallace said the facility will contain about 151,600 square feet and will include clean rooms for vaccine manufacturing, quality control labs, sterile storage space, decontamination rooms and a central utility plant. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2013, he said, with completion in December 2014.There were no questions or comments from the regents. The vote allows the system to move forward with locating an architect and construction company."Everything is on schedule," Chancellor John Sharp said. "This facility will be one of the ways we help save the world when the time comes, to put it bluntly. It will be one of the most important buildings in the Texas A&M System and the state of Texas."Additionally, the regents unanimously approved a measure that would create a joint physics degree program across six A&M system schools and two non-system schools.The physics degree at Texas A&M University-Commerce, Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Prairie View A&M University and West Texas A&M University was discontinued by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October 2011 because the universities graduated fewer than five students per year.The joint-degree approved by the regents would allow students at the six system schools, along with those at Midwestern State University and Texas Southern University, to earn a physics degree primarily via distance learning with faculty members at the participating universities.James Hallmark, system vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the joint-degree program would be the largest of its kind in Texas and serve as a model of how to allow students at smaller universities access to specialized degrees."This is a potential model that [the coordinating board] will embrace," Hallmark said.