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K-State Today

June 24, 2019

DHS, USDA sign NBAF transfer agreement

Submitted by Erin Pennington

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sign a memorandum of agreement that will establish responsibilities for the transfer of ownership and operations of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility being built adjacent to Kansas State University. Looking on in the back row, from left, are Peter Dorhout, vice president for research at K-State; Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas; and Rep. Roger Marshall, also of Kansas.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security signed a memorandum of agreement on June 20 that formally outlines how the departments will transfer ownership and operational responsibility for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, from the Science and Technology Directorate of DHS to the USDA.

According to the USDA, DHS will retain responsibility for completing construction and commissioning of the $1.25 billion facility being built in Manhattan adjacent to the Kansas State University campus, while USDA will assume responsibility for all operational planning and eventual operation of the facility. DHS efforts are on schedule and on budget to complete construction in December 2020 and to complete commissioning in May 2021, when ownership of NBAF will be formally transferred to USDA.

"NBAF will be the first facility in the United States with maximum biocontainment, BSL-4 labs, where we can develop vaccines and diagnostics for high-consequence animal diseases — including those that can also affect human health," said Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. "These expanded capabilities will enable us to be more dynamic and flexible in responding to disease threats — wherever they come from, whatever they look like."

Peter Dorhout, vice president for research at Kansas State University, said this change in agency leadership is consistent with oversight and management of the type of fundamental and applied research that will take place at NBAF.

"We look forward to partnering with our NBAF and USDA colleagues as we work toward keeping the world and its food supply safe and protecting our food producers and this vital industry, especially here in Kansas," Dorhout said.

According to Ron Trewyn, K-State NBAF liaison, the university's scientists have collaborated with USDA scientists for decades.

"State of Kansas funding has allowed our faculty to jump-start research on four NBAF diseases in the Biosecurity Research Institute at Pat Roberts Hall, and some of that work is being done with USDA researchers from the Center for Grain and Animal Health Research here in Manhattan," Trewyn said. "Future USDA NBAF scientists are being trained in the BRI today. Thus, the interactions should only multiply and flourish in the future."

The state-of-the-art facility will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The Manhattan site is strategically placed near the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world, providing access to important veterinary, agricultural and biosecurity research and expertise.