After years of collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony was held Wednesday at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
The ceremony lasted close to two hours on the west lawn of the facility and included a panel conversation moderated by Dr. Simon Liu, USDA ARS Administrator. The panel included USDA MRP Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA REE Under Secretary Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young and DHS S&T Office of Innovation and Collaboration Executive Director Julie Brewer.
The $1.25 billion laboratory is the first with biosafety level-4 containment, capable of housing large livestock. NBAF officials welcomed several federal, state and local dignitaries to cut the ribbon, including US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
NBAF is replacing the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a biosafety level-3 facility in New York that has deteriorated.
Vilsack says with over 400 employees through USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and access to nearby Kansas State University, the future of the nation’s food supply, ag economy and public health, is in good hands.
Others who spoke Wednesday included Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who called it a monumental day for Kansas.
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Kelly says there were many reasons why Kansas, and specifically Manhattan were the right fit for NBAF.
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Sen. Jerry Moran echoed the governor’s sentiments.
Former Sen. Pat Roberts, who many say was key in bringing the facility to Kansas, spoke about his past role on the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairing the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and the evil he witnessed firsthand while visiting Russia.
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Roberts went on to credit late Kansas State University President Jon Wefald with the idea of a land grant partnership to bring a facility to Manhattan to replace the aging Plum Island facility in New York.
At NBAF the ARS arm of USDA will focus on high consequence and emerging animal diseases, developing countermeasures like vaccines and antivirals. APHIS, will focus on prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response to diseases, including expertise to manage two vaccine banks and train state and federal veterinarians to recognize livestock diseases.
NBAF remains in the science preparatory phase and isn’t expected to begin research until late 2024 at the earliest. Manhattan was selected as NBAF’s site in 2009 and broke ground in 2015. It’s anticipated the facility will bring in more biotech companies to the region and contribute greatly to the regional economy.