Prepared by: Beth Montelone, interim director of Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research
Institute in Pat Roberts Hall, and Peine professor of biosecurity. She can be reached at 785-532-1333,
or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Dec. 19, 2008
OPINION: K-STATE'S BIOSECURITY RESEARCH INSTITUTE WOULD ENABLE RESEARCH PROGRAMS TO TRANSITION FROM PLUM ISLAND WITHOUT DELAY DURING CONSTRUCTION PHASE OF NBAF
MANHATTAN -- Manhattan, Kan., was recently named as the "preferred alternative" site for construction of the new National Bio and Agro-defense Facility -- NBAF, which is intended to replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center as the site of research being conducted on foreign animal diseases by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
One of the attractive features in the "package" presented by the Heartland BioAgro Consortium to the Department of Homeland Security was the presence of a significant number of animal health researchers at Kansas State University as well as its Biosecurity Research Institute.
The Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall is a state-of-the-art Biosafety Level 3 and Biosafety Level 3-Ag facility that will allow research programs to transition from Plum Island to the NBAF without delay during the construction phase of NBAF. At the Biosecurity Research Institute, we have the capability to host research being done with important animal and plant infectious diseases that threaten agriculture in this country and around the world.
Specifically, the Biosecurity Research Institute is already working with researchers planning to initiate projects on Rift Valley Fever, one of the infectious agents listed for study at NBAF. Of the eight listed agents, we can conduct research at the Biosecurity Research Institute on five of them in 2009.
Current research at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center is almost entirely on Foot and Mouth Disease, which until recently was the only site in the U.S. at which this agent could be studied. Because of the relatively small size and age of the Plum Island facilities, and its inaccessibility -- by ferry only -- other important foreign animal diseases are not being studied to the extent they should by federal researchers.
The Biosecurity Research Institute's capability to accommodate significant numbers of large farm animals in research studies in a high-level containment environment is a resource that was unmatched at other proposed NBAF locations and means that research projects that otherwise would have been waiting for access to Plum Island can begin at the Biosecurity Research Institute without delay.
Furthermore, we can provide federal and state authorities with the facilities to mount a nimble response to an agroterrorism threat or foreign animal disease outbreak. Make no mistake, preparedness for threats of this sort is a national security issue.
K-State's renowned educational programs will create a pipeline of highly qualified technical and scientific employees for NBAF. The Biosecurity Research Institute has an 11,000 square foot Integrated Training Suite, which is the perfect location for providing these future staff members with hands-on instruction in working in high containment conditions.
To summarize, the Biosecurity Research Institute's research capabilities combined with K-State's scientific expertise and unparalleled workforce development opportunities will be a huge asset to NBAF if the preferred alternative -- Kansas -- becomes the record of decision next month.