NBAF: Safe, Secure and Vital to Nation's Interests?

KANSAS, US - Kansas State University leaders remain optimistic that the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) will be built in Kansas.
calendar icon 10 August 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

"We are excited about the opportunity to bring NBAF to Kansas and remain confident that NBAF will be built as scheduled in Manhattan, just as the Department of Homeland Security originally decided," said K-State President Kirk Schulz. "We are working with our colleagues at the Kansas Bioscience Authority, with our federal delegation, and the governor's office to continue to advocate that Kansas is the right place to put NBAF."

"The facts are that modern research methods and facilities are extremely safe – and urgently needed," said Ron Trewyn, K-State's vice president for research. "The NBAF will be built with the highest safety standards, which are keeping tens of millions of residents safe in places where labs studying diseases already exist.

"The Centers for Disease Control is located in Atlanta, Georgia, where scientists have worked on the most dangerous human diseases for decades," Trewyn said. "Current K-State faculty members – veterinarians Jerry and Nancy Jaax – worked for more than 20 years in federal biosecurity labs in Frederick, Maryland, and their son still lives nearby. Not a single community outbreak has occurred in these cities."

"We strongly believe the NBAF will be a safe and secure facility," said Jerry Jaax, K-State associate vice president for research compliance. "Even though decades-old infectious disease research facilities have served the nation safely and well, the NBAF will incorporate the most up-to-date safety, security and technological advances perfected in other biocontainment laboratories. Redundant and overlapping safety and security features characterize modern biocontainment facilities.

"Upon completion, the NBAF will be the most advanced agricultural biocontainment facility in the world – uniquely suited to perform innovative research to protect and sustain our agricultural infrastructure and food supply," Mr Jaax said. "The NBAF will include Biosafety Level 4 (BL-4) laboratories. These are needed to address our lack of national capability to counter new or emerging agricultural diseases that have serious public health implications, such as Nipah and Hendra viruses."

The safety measures and careful construction will be even more stringent in this new facility, than in these older buildings because construction technology has continued to evolve and improve, Dr Trewyn said.

Dr Trewyn pointed to a lab in Winnipeg, Canada, where scientists study the highly contagious FMD virus just across the border from North Dakota.

"FMD research is already conducted on the 'mainland' and has not spread to livestock outside the facility there," Mr Trewyn said.

One of the researchers who studied animal diseases at the Winnipeg facility is Juergen Richt, a Regents Distinguished Professor at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine and a Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar.

"The state of Kansas has unlimited possibilities in becoming a leader in research on foreign and zoonotic diseases of animals, not only within our nation but worldwide," Mr Richt said. "More importantly, the physical presence of modern biocontainment facilities and animal health experts in Manhattan will ensure our nation's agricultural security for decades.

"Modern biocontainment facilities are safe and secure," he added. "The safety risk is in not building such a facility because our livestock are at risk without them."

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