Archive for Thursday, December 4, 2008

KSU recommended for national biolab

December 4, 2008

A $450 million federal lab dedicated to protecting the United States from disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks should be built in Manhattan, Kan., according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The release of the draft report Wednesday was hailed by Kansas officials who have been waging an intense competition with other states to win what is called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility or NBAF.

“Manhattan, Kansas State University and the state of Kansas have proven that we are the nation’s leaders in plant and animal research and industry, and I am proud of the role Kansas will continue to play in agriculture security and innovation,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who started the effort to land the facility.

At one time, Leavenworth was considered for the site.

“This NBAF will protect and build the state’s agriculture economy for decades to come and further expand our national leadership in the biosciences,” Roberts said.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, described the selection by DHS as “an early Christmas gift” for Kansas.

But the deal isn’t done yet.

The choice won’t become final until after a 30-day period for comments on the decision, which could face legal challenges from losing states. Other finalist sites were Flora, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; Butner, N.C.; and San Antonio.

Texas officials already are fuming.

“We’re going to be right up in their face,” York Duncan, president of Texas Research Park, which was one of the finalists, told the San Antonio Express-News.

“We have decided to pull all the stops out and we’re going to exploit every opportunity to steer this to San Antonio,” he said.

The new lab would replace an aging facility on Plum Island, N.Y.

Under the DHS proposal, the lab would be used primarily to protect against animal diseases by conducting research on deadly pathogens, such as foot and mouth disease, Rift Valley fever and Hendra and Nipah viruses.

Construction, which would take about four years, could start in 2010.

The facility is expected to require 1,500 construction jobs. Once completed, it is expected the facility would employ 300 people, with an annual payroll of $25 million to $30 million.

In its Environmental Impact Statement, DHS said the Manhattan, Kan., site was preferred because of many factors, including cost.

The site’s strengths included:

• Proximity to KSU and existing research capabilities.

• Workforce “relevant to the NBAF mission” because of the link to the KSU College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Bioscience Research Institute.

• Support of local, state and federal officials.

• “In-kind” contributions from the state. The Kansas Legislature and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius approved a $105 million bond package to develop the project.

• Environmental impacts fell in the “no impacts to minor impacts” category.

• Threat of pathogen release were comparable to other proposed sites.

The bottom line, according to the report: “The Manhattan campus was among the least expensive to construct and had the lowest planned operation costs of all the site alternatives.”

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, who also served on the task force that worked on landing NBAF, said he was “thrilled” by the news that it was going to Kansas State University.

“The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will be a major economic asset to our state and will boost bioscience research throughout the region, including at KU,” he said.

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