Prepared by: Tom Thornton, president, Kansas Bioscience Authority
Thursday, March 13, 2008
OP-ED: THE NBAF WOULD BUILD ON KANSAS' EXISTING STRENGTHS IN BIOSCIENCE
Kansas has long been known for its amber waves of grain and plentiful world-class beef. What many have not realized, however, is that Kansas' agricultural expertise has catapulted it into leadership in fields far beyond the farm -- namely, the scientific laboratory.
That's right. Kansas' international strengths in agribusiness and the animal-health industry have positioned the state squarely in the forefront of some of the most innovative and important animal-health research taking place today. And this research expertise is opening doors to amazing opportunities for growth.
In 2006 the Department of Homeland Security issued a call to communities interested in playing a more active role in a national priority: securing the food supply and protecting public health.
Kansas was one of many states that offered to host the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $451 million federal laboratory charged with researching and defusing high-consequence pathogens threatening the food supply.
The federal government, recognizing the existing expertise at Kansas State University and throughout the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, put Manhattan, Kan., on its short list of six potential sites after a very competitive selection process.
By itself, K-State has a proven history and commitment to food safety and security that predates even the attacks of Sept. 11. The university has a top-tier veterinary school, an extensive research network capable of addressing nearly all aspects of food security, and an active faculty with strong ties to industry. It doesn't hurt that Manhattan also is geographically in the thick of the nation's agricultural economy.
In addition, the Kansas Bioscience Authority is investing considerably in K-State's continued success. A recent $2.5 million commitment to attract researchers from across the nation to K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall will boost the cutting-edge research already taking place.
The authority also recognized Dr. Juergen Richt as one of the first Kansas Bioscience Eminent Scholars, helping attract Dr. Richt to K-State from Iowa. This international expert in diseases transmitted from animals to humans is sure to play a vital role in protecting animal and public health from emerging diseases.
Combine those merits with a region bustling with bioscience activity -- for example, more than 125 animal-health companies, 13,000 specialists and 5,000 researchers -- and the advantages of Kansas are undeniable.
Kansas has the intellectual capital the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility needs. We have the facilities and infrastructure to accelerate its urgent work. And the state offers a commitment to the facility's important mission that is unmatched.
Building the National Agro and Bio-Defense Facility in Kansas will further advance the state's legacy of producing and protecting the nation's food, and it's simply the right choice -- on the merits.