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K-State Today

July 9, 2012



Letter to campus from Ron Trewyn and Stephen Higgs

By Ron Trewyn and Stephen Higgs

Every day our nation's food supply becomes safer because of work being done at the Biosecurity Research Institute. For the past four years Kansas State University’s world-renowned researchers have been taking advantage of this one-of-a-kind biosafety-level 3 facility right here on campus.

Since research began in 2008, our faculty and affiliated researchers have made huge strides in obtaining extramural funding supporting multidisciplinary research and training to study and combat pathogens that threaten our food supply and agriculture economy. Completed projects have delved into critical threats like pandemic H1N1 influenza, swine flu, Rift Valley fever, E. coli, brucellosis and tularemia.

The Biosecurity Research Institute has nearly 30 full-time staff members. This doesn't begin to include the researchers and their teams who are using the facility. In any given year, there could be as many as 140 people working in Pat Roberts Hall.

The projects under way today include wheat blast, highly pathogenic avian influenza, Rift Valley fever and bluetongue virus. More than just the university's own experts, collaborators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are also taking advantage of the institute's capabilities.

The institute's progress doesn't stop there. Six more research projects have recently been approved by the regulatory agencies, and 12 more wait in the wings. Because the safety of the public and the researchers must be assured, the approval process is neither swift nor taken lightly. Gaining approval is a huge step forward for projects at the Biosecurity Research Institute.

Research is not the only way that the institute is making a name for itself around the world. It's also a prime destination for training and collaboration among the best researchers.

The Biosecurity Research Institute played host to researchers taking a global look at the highly contagious viral disease African swine fever. The participants included directors of laboratories and researchers from Spain, Kenya, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom and Canada — proving that the institute and Kansas State University are world leaders in animal health and food safety research.

The institute's influence extends beyond our campus in other ways, too. Look no further than at the number of collaborating organizations, like the U.S. departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture and Defense.

It should come as no surprise that the Biosecurity Research Institute is involved with the planned National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility that is to be built on the K-State campus. The Biosecurity Research Institute projects will jump-start some of the research planned for the NBAF even before it becomes operational. Without the Biosecurity Research Institute, securing a federal facility like NBAF would have been a dream. Because of the discoveries being made every day in Pat Roberts Hall, it's a reality.

There are so many things going on at the Biosecurity Research Institute right now that Perspectives, the university's research magazine, is focusing its entire summer issue on the groundbreaking work being done there.

As we come to four years of research at the institute, we have much to celebrate. Most of all, we celebrate the many more innovations and collaborations to come.

 

Ron Trewyn

vice president for research

Stephen Higgs

BRI research director, associate vice president of research and Peine Biosecurity Chair