May 24, 2023

🎥 Ribbon cutting celebrates National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility

Posted May 24, 2023 4:00 PM
The ceremony included remarks from many community, state and national leaders, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.-photo by Becky Goff  
The ceremony included remarks from many community, state and national leaders, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.-photo by Becky Goff  

Manhattan– Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) celebrated the dedication and ribbon-cutting of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) on Wednesday morning.

(click below to watch the ribbon cutting)

This is the first U.S. laboratory with biosafety level-4 containment capable of housing large livestock. 

NBAF Ribbon cutting, photo by Becky Goff
NBAF Ribbon cutting, photo by Becky Goff

DHS S&T and USDA have collaborated on the requirements for this next-generation science facility since 2006. DHS S&T led NBAF’s design and construction, and USDA will own and operate the facility to protect the U.S. against transboundary and emerging animal diseases as well as zoonotic diseases capable of transferring from livestock to people. 

The ceremony included remarks from many community, state and national leaders, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  

“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,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “America’s farmers, ranchers and consumers count on our researchers and diagnosticians to understand, monitor for and develop solutions to combat a variety of high-consequence animal pathogens, and a facility of this magnitude positions us to respond.” 

NBAF will replace DHS’ Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), which is a biosafety level-3 facility in New York that is more than 68 years old. Manhattan, Kansas was selected as NBAF’s site in 2009. With more than 400 employees, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will share NBAF’s operational responsibilities. These two agencies currently conduct research, training and diagnostic programs alongside DHS scientists at PIADC.  

As part of the dedication program, Dr. Simon Liu, USDA Agricultural Research Service Administrator, led a moderated conversation with Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary; Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics; and Julie Brewer, DHS S&T Executive Director of Innovation & Collaboration. 

“NBAF is a strategic national asset that will help USDA stay proactive in leading efforts to protect public health and address new and emerging diseases,” said Jacobs-Young. “This new, modernized facility is a critical down payment in ensuring our country has the tools we need to keep the American people and our agricultural animals safe.” 

NBAF building, photo by Becky Goff
NBAF building, photo by Becky Goff

The ceremony highlighted the state and local community's support. City of Manhattan Mayor Mark Hatesohl, Kansas State University President Dr. Richard Linton, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, and former U.S. Senator Pat Roberts gave remarks during the ceremony.  

“NBAF’s Midwest location offers researchers and diagnosticians closer proximity to develop key partnerships with the animal health industry and several academic institutions,” said NBAF Director Dr. Alfonso Clavijo. “NBAF will create opportunities between scientists and animal health companies to enhance and expedite the transition of new veterinary countermeasures from research to market to protect the nation’s agriculture if needed.” 

Adjacent to Kansas State University and on the Western edge of the largest concentration of animal health companies in the nation, the 48-acre NBAF campus includes more than 700,000 square feet of total building space. The main building, at 500,000 square feet, includes containment laboratories, animal holding facilities, office spaces, facility support areas and required safety systems — such as redundant HEPA air filtration and waste decontamination systems.  

At NBAF, ARS will primarily focus on research to understand high-consequence and emerging animal diseases and develop countermeasures, such as vaccines and antivirals. APHIS will focus on prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response to these diseases, including the expertise to manage two vaccine banks and train state and federal veterinarians to recognize livestock diseases.