Yesterday federal officials and leaders from Kansas formally opened the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas, marking the culmination of plans that have been in the works since 2006 to replace the 68-year-old Plum Island Animal Disease Facility, a biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) facility in New York.
The NBAF is the nation's only large-animal BSL-4 facility that is designed to handle pathogens that don't have any treatments or countermeasures. When the site was under consideration, environmental impact studies raised concerns about a risk of a pathogen leak in an area located not far from livestock operations. However, factors that tipped the balance toward the Kansas site included its location near research facilities at Kansas State University and animal health companies in the Kansas City area.
In a press release, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said farmers, ranchers, and consumers depend on federal researchers for their work on better understanding and quickly responding to high-consequence animal pathogens. "This new, innovative facility will give USDA scientists access to cutting-edge, safe, and secure technology so they can continue to lead the world in animal health research, training, and diagnostics to protect our food supply, agricultural economy, and public health."
This new, innovative facility will give USDA scientists access to cutting-edge, safe, and secure technology.
No research has started at the lab yet, and staff are still doing compliance, regulatory work, inspections, development and testing of protocols, equipment preparations, and training, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. NBAF Director Alfonso Clavijo, DVM, said clearance to start lab work is expected by late 2024.
The Department of Homeland Security led the design and construction of the NBAF, which will be owned and operated by the USDA, with the USDA's Animal Research Service and the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Services sharing operating responsibilities.