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K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute to provide research, training space for food safety and security efforts

By Michelle Hall and Cheryl May


Kansas State University's newest building, Pat Roberts Hall, was dedicated today to recognize the long-time Kansas senator and honor his efforts to protect the nation from agroterrorism.

Pat Roberts Hall will be home to the Biosecurity Research Institute, which will provide space for research and training in K-State's food safety and security efforts.

The $54 million Biosecurity Research Institute is a comprehensive biosafety level 3 facility providing scientists a secure location in which to study pathogens and pests that threaten animal and plant-based agricultural systems, and to develop intervention strategies to minimize impacts on the nation's food supply and economy.

Jim Stack"The pace of globalization has increased dramatically over the last few decades and projections are that the trends will continue," said Jim Stack, institute director. "People and goods move over greater distances in shorter periods of time than ever before. With these people and goods move pathogens and insect pests. As a result, populations of hosts -- humans, for example -- pathogens and vectors are mixing at greater frequencies resulting in the emergence of new diseases and the geographic redistribution of recurring diseases. The pace of the world has quickened; disease detection, diagnosis and response must keep pace."

The Biosecurity Research Institute is unique among biocontainment research facilities in several important ways, Stack said. Researchers will evaluate actual processing conditions and determine if there are safer methods; they will be able to look at the plant or animal all the way to the product. The institute will be one of only a few labs in the world with such capabilities.

In addition, K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute will allow the development of rapid and accurate diagnostic tools to successfully manage disease outbreaks.

In recent years, threats from intentional use of biological agents have increased, as evidenced by the anthrax attacks of 2001. Stack said it is important for law enforcement authorities to be able to determine the source of introduced agents to identify those responsible in the case of an attack.

Work at the Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall will include the following:

* Infectious diseases, especially diseases that affect or could threaten the state's livestock industry.
* Research on pathogens that harm the state's food crops.
* Exploring food and meat processing methods to bring safer foods and meats to consumers.
* General research on mechanisms animals use to ward off infectious diseases.
* Education and training capabilities in both agricultural and human health fields on containing a disease outbreak, either from an unintentional source or from a terrorist.

Research suites will include the following:

* Food processing research suite
* Food crop infectious disease research suite
* Food animal infectious disease research suite
* Basic biology of infectious disease research suite
* Biosecurity education suite for training and sharing information

The range of research possibilities includes avian flu, brucellosis, soybean rust, salmonella and E. coli. Researchers will study known and emerging diseases. They will be able to track the paths of pathogens as they would occur in the outside world.

BRI drawingThe building has special air-handling systems that filter the air, preventing release of materials from the research space. All waste will be processed to kill even the hardiest microorganisms. Scientists will be required to complete education and training programs prior to working within the facility. They will wear personal protective equipment and follow research protocols that minimize the potential for exposure, Stack said.

A building such as the Biosecurity Research Institute requires more space for engineering controls and equipment than a normal laboratory. The approximately 113,000-square foot facility has about 31,000 square feet dedicated to laboratories and training areas, and around 10,000 square feet for an administrative area.

Construction of the $54-million facility commenced in fall 2004, and was completed this fall. Stack said it is anticipated that research within the building will begin in January 2007.

The architect of record for the facility is PGAV Architects of Westwood, Kan. PGAV has been called a leader in the design of complex research facilities similar to the Biosecurity Research Institute. The architectural team also featured a variety of specialized consultants, including biocontainment specialists, security consultants, meat processing specialists and more. Turner Construction, a worldwide firm that has participated in the construction of biosecurity facilities throughout the nation, is providing construction manager at-risk services to the project.

Funding for the facility included revenue bonds, various federal monies, private cash contributions and gifts-in-kind.

Biosecurity Research Institute
Food Safety and Security at K-State

Stack can be reached at 785-532-1388 or jstack@k-state.edu


Summer 2006/Updated October 2006