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Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
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Prepared by: Dan Thomson, MS, Ph.D, DVM, Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology, associate professor of clinical sciences in the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Beef Cattle Institute. He can be contacted at 785-532-5700 or

Monday, August 25, 2008


Manhattan, Kan., has been listed as one of five finalist sites for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF. A sixth option is remodeling Plum Island, where the lab is now. All indications point to the fact that the facility will be moved mainland.

My initial reaction was, "What if some virus or bacteria gets out of the facility?" I know this has to be on the minds of others.

If moved, this facility is going to be in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina or Kansas. Kansas definitely has the advantage with location and climate compared to the other four sites. Ninety percent of the research facilities for the new NBAF will be biosafety 3 or 3-Ag.

The new Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, in Pat Roberts Hall was recently constructed and opened on the K-State campus. Pat Roberts Hall houses biosafety level 3 and biosafety level 3-Ag laboratories and environmental rooms. Again, we already have a facility in Manhattan, Kan., that is designed to do exactly what the NBAF researchers will need to do 90 percent of the time.

We have the experts on the K-State campus to work with the Department of Homeland Security to make the NBAF transition safe and expedient. With the BRI, we have already constructed a facility at K-State that would complement and dovetail into the NBAF expansion. The facilities are secure and biosecure. No bad people will get in and no bad bugs will get out.

Another objection is locating this facility where cattle, pigs and other livestock are located. This is not to be taken lightly and concerns me as well, regardless of the NBAF location.

No matter where the facility is located, a breach of biosecurity would mean severe consequences to our national livestock production. A single animal with foot and mouth disease outside the walls of the facility would mean a shutdown of exports for the entire country whether it is in any of the five states being considered.

The National Animal Disease Center has been located in Ames, Iowa, since 1956. Research at that facility has included hog cholera, brucellosis, avian influenza and others. The biosafety level 3 facilities in the United States have been located close to livestock for decades.

"Kansas first, Kansas best" should be the motto for the Department of Homeland Security when selecting the NBAF site. We have the infrastructure from the top down to build and manage such a facility. Nearly 35 percent of the world's animal health biological and pharmaceutical products are made by companies headquartered within a two-hour drive of Manhattan. K-State and KU faculty are recognized internationally for their research and teaching in these specific areas involving livestock and humans.

We are located close to Fort Riley and able to detect or defend the facility from terrorist activities. The combination of science, industry and national defense could not be stronger in a 100-mile radius than Manhattan, Kan.

Personally, I would like to have the facility in Kansas. The growth of faculty positions and collaborative research would be unbelievable. The NBAF facility will bring students to our campus from all areas of the United States and beyond. The opportunities for bright scientists to stay in our state and call Kansas home would definitely help our local school systems and communities. Also, our communities and state would thrive from the economic stimulus that it would create. Wouldn't it be nice to have regular flights in and out of Manhattan without have to stop in Kansas City, Salina or McCook to get somewhere?

Kansas State University already has the infrastructure in place to make this a smooth transition for NBAF construction and management. The relocation of NBAF to Manhattan, Kan., makes perfect business sense when you consider experience, expertise, existing facilities, location within the Animal Health Corridor, proximity to Fort Riley and being at K-State, the leading food animal health school in the country.

If I were a scientist at Plum Island given the choice of where to relocate myself and family, it wouldn't take me long to figure out that Manhattan, Kan., is the place to put down some roots. The integrity of the people of this state and the ability to get the job done right are reasons enough.

I am sure that politics weigh heavy around this decision. If it were run like a business, the decision would be done already and Gov. Sebelius would have already turned over the sod with a golden shovel.