Construction on biolab at K-State should begin 'without further delay'

Department of Homeland Security signs land transfer agreement for the high-risk veterinary research site.
source-image
Jan 04, 2013

More than four years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) planned for 46 acres on the campus of Kansas State University seems to have been given a long-awaited green light. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Congressional Delegation announced this week that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has signed a land transfer agreement with the state of Kansas for the site in Manhattan, Kan.

“While there is much more work to be done, signing of the land transfer agreement is a good step forward in securing the future health, wealth and security of the our nation, Brownback said in a release. “It demonstrates DHS’s continued commitment to completing the NBAF in Manhattan. Kansas stands ready to partner with DHS to move this important national security priority forward.”

Dean of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine Ralph Richardson, DVM, says in an email to dvm360 that he is pleased the transfer is complete. “The U.S. is in great need for a modern bio-containment facility and the longer we delay in building such a facility, the greater the risks become to our nation's livestock and our ability to compete on the world stage in regards to infectious disease research.” He hopes to see strides in construction early this year.

According to a release from the university citing U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has made it clear that construction of the Central Utilities Plant should be under way without further delay. It was December 2008 when Kansas State, located in the heart of the Animal Health Corridor, was selected as the site of a biosafety level 4 (BSL 4) facility to replace the aging and now storm-damaged Plum Island facility near the northeast coast of Long Island in New York.

Difficulty in securing federal funding for the facility has slowed the project, which at one point aimed to begin construction in 2010 and then again in early 2012. The estimated 500,000-square-foot facility has a price tag of at least $650 million and will take five years to complete. The state of Kansas will pay $105 million of matching state funds to the project and $35 million in research funding for transitioning NBAF to Manhattan. The university also reports that DHS has already invested $125 million into site preparation, engineering, design and site-specific risk assessments. Brownback and the federal delegation have said they will continue to strongly pursue federal funding of the facility, according to K-State.

A January 2012 economic impact report says the NBAF will consist of two laboratory facilities and four outbuildings. One of the two laboratory buildings will be the primary research building containing the BSL 2, BSL 3E, BSL 3Ag, and BSL 4 laboratories with associated support spaces. The other lab building, located adjacent to the primary research laboratory, will be dedicated to small-scale vaccine and reagent production. Outbuildings will include a central utility plant, an entry guardhouse, a central receiving facility and parking. The high-risk facility will house study of zoonotic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever and contagious bovine pleuropheuomonia.

The 2012 impact report also concludes that construction of the facility will employ approximately 326 permanent workers with salaries averaging $77,000 a year and support about 757 construction jobs. It is expected to have a $3.5 billion economic impact on the state in the facility’s first 20 years of use.