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Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
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  4. Response to the NRC Report

Drs. Nancy and Jerry Jaax

We would like to respond to recent safety concerns about the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility coming to Manhattan. We are writing because we have considerable first-hand experience in biocontainment laboratories and consequently, we feel qualified to add our perspective.

First and foremost, we strongly believe NBAF will be a safe and secure facility. NBAF is being built specifically to address infectious disease threats to our agriculture. The majority of these threats require BL-2 or BL-3 facilities and many are not pathogenic to humans. This agricultural mission is important to the welfare of the entire nation and is especially vital to our interests here in the Midwest. This is an important distinction between the focus of NBAF and other new biocontainment facilities that concentrate almost exclusively on human health aspects of diseases.

The inclusion of Biosafety Level - 4 (BL-4) capability at NBAF has generated concern.  Such laboratories are necessary to address our significant lack of national capability to counter new or emerging agricultural diseases that may have serious public health implications, such as Nipah and Hendra viruses.

We worked for 20 years at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Army's premier infectious disease biocontainment facility in Frederick, Md. Like hundreds of other employees, we returned home daily from the lab confident that our families were not at risk.

Decades-old infectious disease biocontainment research facilities operated by the USDA, DoD and the CDC have served the nation safely and well, often in heavily populated areas. NBAF will incorporate the most up-to-date safety, security and technological advances perfected in other biocontainment laboratories. These redundant and overlapping safety and security features characterize modern biocontainment facilities, providing the ability to deal with emerging and / or intentionally introduced diseases, which is an absolute national and regional priority.

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Nancy and Jerry Jaax are graduates of K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. While serving at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), they were key participants in the 1989 Reston Ebola outbreak detailed in Richard Preston's best seller "The Hot Zone."