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Frequently asked questions regarding BRI

 

Why is the Biosecurity Research Institute important? Why is it important to K-State?

The pace of globalization has increased dramatically over the last few decades and projections are that the trends will continue. 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 (e.g., humans), 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 importance of the Biosecurity Research Institute derives from its safety and security capabilities that allow research with pathogens and pests that threaten our animal and plant-based agricultural systems. These threats encompass emerging and recurring diseases of animals and plants, some of which also have the capacity to cause disease in humans and natural ecosystems, respectively. The economic and human impact of these diseases can be devastating.

It is important that scientists have the ability to work with these organisms before a disease outbreak so that preventive (e.g., vaccines) and treatment measures can be developed and a deeper understanding of the biological threats attained.

K-State has a record of national leadership in the areas of food safety and security. The establishment of the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center is a statement of K-State's commitment to maintaining that leadership, both nationally and internationally. The Biosecurity Research Institute is a significant step in creating the research and training infrastructure necessary to achieve agricultural biosecurity. Within this facility, important food safety and security questions are addressed and practical solutions developed and validated.

I've heard how the Biosecurity Research Institute has unique capabilities and how it's unlike any other building in the world. Can you explain how it's unique and one-of-a-kind?

The Biosecurity Research Institute is unique among biocontainment research facilities in several important ways. It is the only research and training facility within the U.S. that integrates plant pathology, food safety, entomology, veterinary medicine and molecular biology, allowing for comprehensive research programs concerning high consequence pathogens and pests that threaten our food production systems.

The successful management of disease outbreaks requires accurate and rapid diagnostic procedures to assist health care professionals and public health officials in the early stages of an outbreak. The safety and security features of the Biosecurity Research Institute allow the development of those important diagnostic tools. Effective treatment of diseases usually requires an understanding of the basic biology of the pathogens that cause disease. The Biosecurity Research Institute permits scientists to ask fundamental questions about disease associated with high consequence pathogens.

What safety measures built in?

There are several levels of safety and security necessary to ensure that the agents of concern remain within the containment space and that the scientists handling the agents remain safe.

Biosafety and biocontainment involve three important components, all of which are necessary: Facilities (the Biosecurity Research Institute with its suites and special air-handling capabilities); Equipment (biosafety cabinets and other protective technologies within the laboratory suites); and Procedures (the way research is done inside the suites). Protocols and standard operating procedures that encompass the full spectrum of issues are considered within a biosecurity framework that includes physical and operational security and a training and education program.

The building has special air-handling systems that filter the air, preventing release of materials from the research space. All waste is processed in such a manner as to kill even the hardiest microorganisms.

Scientists are required to participate in and complete periodic education and training programs prior to working within the facility. They wear personal protective equipment and follow research protocols that minimize the potential for exposure.

How does the Biosecurity Research Institute fit in with K-State's initiatives and research in food safety and security?

The Biosecurity Research Institute is one component of an extensive K-State network of research facilities dedicated to the food production, food safety and food security systems of Kansas and the nation. BRI programs complement the research and education programs in many departments throughout the university. The Biosecurity Research Institute provides added capability to conduct research at the leading edge of food safety and security with global impact.

What is the full square footage? What part is available for laboratories?

The total area of the building is approximately 113,000 square feet. Of that, approximately 31,000 square feet are dedicated to laboratories and training areas. There are also approximately 10,000 square feet of administrative area. A building such as the Biosecurity Research Institute requires more space for engineering controls and equipment than a normal laboratory.

What are the training capabilities?

The training and education area includes state-of-the-art classrooms with capacity for digital interface with the research areas within the containment space. This permits the highest caliber of training experience on the handling and identification of high consequence pathogens and pests and the diagnosis of disease states in animals and plants without exposing trainees to the actual agents. The latest in digital instruction technology will be integral to the Biosecurity Research Institute educational experience.

How does the Biosecurity Research Institute fit in with K-State's National Agricultural Biosecurity Center's work?

The Biosecurity Research Institute is a functional research unit within the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center. The Biosecurity Research Institute mission is fully consistent with and complementary to National Agricultural Biosecurity Center programs. As the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center pursues relevant programs, the Biosecurity Research Institute brings added value in securing the support necessary to conduct this research that is vital to national food security. Because the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center is a campus-wide center, the Biosecurity Research Institute, as a subordinate organization, is a resource available to all colleges with a need for such a facility. Just as in the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, we collaborate with scientific colleagues in academe, industry and government.

 

Summer 2006/updated October 2006