The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to bring online a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. This state-of-the-art facility will be a national asset that helps protect the nation’s agriculture, farmers and citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.The DHS Science and Technology Directorate is building the facility to standards that fulfill the mission needs of the USDA which will own, manage and operate the NBAF once construction and commissioning activities are complete. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in the facility.
Protecting the Nation's Food Supply and Public Health
The United States currently does not have a laboratory facility with maximum biocontainment (BSL-4) space to study high-consequence zoonotic diseases affecting large livestock. NBAF will be the first laboratory facility in the U.S. to provide BSL-4 laboratories capable of housing cattle and other large livestock. NBAF will also feature a Biologics Development Module (BDM) for the pilot scale development of vaccines and other countermeasures, augmenting laboratory research and accelerating technology transfer to industry partners.
NBAF’s location in Manhattan, Kansas, places it within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world. NBAF will be constructed and operated on a secure federally owned site on the northeast corner of the Kansas State University (KSU) campus, adjacent to KSU’s Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall.
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According to the World Health Organization, approximately 75 percent of new and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic diseases which may be transmitted from animals to humans.
Why is A New Facility Necessary?
Animal disease research, diagnostics and training are currently performed at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). However, the aging facility is nearing the end of its lifecycle and does not have the capability to meet research needs in relation to emerging and foreign animal disease threats. NBAF is necessary to meet the requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 (HSPD-9). As USDA mission requirements expand to meet these challenges, a new facility with enhanced biocontainment capabilities and modern laboratory designs is necessary to fulfill future needs.
Designed to Ensure Safety and Security
The National Academies of Science (NAS) 2012 review of the Updated Site-Specific Biosafety and Biosecurity Mitigation and Risk Assessment for NBAF, found the design to “meet or exceed” modern biocontainment standards. The laboratory’s critical systems will include redundant safety and biocontainment features. In the case of a tornado, the facility’s biocontainment areas are designed to a standard similar to that applied in the nuclear industry for structural and containment integrity. All recommendations identified in prior risk assessments were incorporated into the NBAF design.
The NAS report also found that the current NBAF design incorporates best practices used in other animal and zoonotic pathogen laboratory facilities in the United States and abroad. The NBAF will be the nation’s only large animal BSL-4 facility built to safely handle pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures.
The USDA and the Centers for Disease Control will not issue a certificate of registration allowing select agent research at the NBAF until all requirements are satisfied. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) previously made the commitment to the safety of the community, the workers in the facility, and local livestock that the facility would not be operational unless it could be done safely. That longstanding commitment will ensure as USDA transitions into the owner/operator role for NBAF.
NBAF Construction & Operations
Construction activities are nearing completion. Due to COVID-19 disruptions, the DHS Science & Technology Directorate and USDA have collaborated to realign the NBAF schedule. USDA is currently working in a phased transition before assuming full responsibility for NBAF’s operations. With the new schedule, federal officials can address necessary technology upgrades identified since the design was completed in 2012 and install USDA-funded equipment.
According to DHS S&T, the current estimate for completion of construction is spring 2022 with completion of facility commissioning anticipated in early summer 2022.
The federal government is developing a plan to provide a seamless transfer of the science mission from PIADC to NBAF that includes an overlap of operations to make certain there is no interruption of the critical science and operational capabilities.