National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) FAQs
What is NBAF?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stand up the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS. USDA will own and operate NBAF. This state-of-the-art facility is a national asset that will help protect the nation’s agriculture, farmers and citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.
A safer and more resilient America through a world-class science facility for large animal agricultural research, training and diagnostics.
NBAF will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), a biosafety level-3 facility that is more than 68 years old. Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in this center. ARS and APHIS will transfer their research and diagnostic missions from PIADC to NBAF and will operate the facility jointly.
DHS reported that contractor construction and commissioning were completed in December 2022. The USDA team at NBAF now has unfettered access to the facility and started a phase called the operational endurance period.
During this phase, USDA’s work processes must be tested and validated in accordance with the building systems. Scientists will confirm laboratory set-up, evaluate standardized laboratory work processes for consistency and safety, and ensure equipment is functioning appropriately. These are critical initial steps to ensure all research and diagnostics can be accomplished safely and effectively.
Before any work with biological select agents and pathogens can begin, the facility and personnel must undergo a series of inspections and reviews by the Federal Select Agent Program, or FSAP. This step is required by law to evaluate the safety and security of any laboratory that will work with high-consequence viruses, bacteria, microorganisms or toxins.
Even after USDA takes ownership of the facility from DHS, it will still take at least a couple of years to transfer the full science mission from PIADC in New York to NBAF in Kansas.
Why does the U.S. need NBAF?
Protecting livestock and agricultural interests also protects the economy. Agriculture, food and food processing contribute more than $1.1 trillion to the U.S. economy’s gross domestic product per year. In addition, 11 percent of jobs — about 22 million — have some ties to agriculture.
To protect the United States against transboundary, emerging, and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health.
How will NBAF protect the food supply?
At NBAF, USDA will continue to conduct comprehensive research, develop vaccines and anti-virals, and provide enhanced diagnostic and training capabilities to protect the nation from foreign or transboundary animal diseases — those that can enter the U.S. from another country. They will also focus on diseases that are:
- Emerging — are new or not well known.
- Zoonotic — normally exist in animals but can also infect humans.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 70% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. USDA will expand its scientific work at NBAF and be the first in the U.S. to provide maximum biocontainment (biosafety level-4) laboratories capable of housing large livestock to develop vaccines and diagnostics for zoonotic diseases. Through these initiatives, USDA will expand its support of global health and food security. NBAF will be a critical component of USDA’s priority to develop vaccines and countermeasures for — as well as the early detection of — diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from the nation’s farms and fields.
What science will be done at NBAF?
NBAF is in a unique position to do diagnostics and training, as well as research and development of veterinary countermeasures — such as vaccines and antivirals — for foreign, emerging and zoonotic diseases in large livestock within the safety and security of this next-generation facility. The Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) and the Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit (FADRU) at Plum Island will transfer their science to NBAF. FADDL employees are involved in prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and response to these diseases, including the expertise to manage two vaccine banks. FADDL also trains state and federal veterinarians to recognize the clinical signs of foreign animal diseases. FADRU and two new USDA units — the Foreign Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit (FABADRU) and the Zoonotic and Emerging Disease Research Unit (ZEDRU) — will focus on research and countermeasures for high-consequence animal diseases.
In addition, NBAF will have a Biologics Development Module that will enhance and expedite the transition of new innovations from research to commercially-viable countermeasures — like vaccines and antivirals.
How much did NBAF cost to build?
The 574,000 square-foot facility’s acquisition cost was $1.25 billion. The cost was fully funded through a combination of $938 million in federal appropriations, $307 million in funding provided by the State of Kansas, and $5 million from the City of Manhattan (Kansas).
Why the transition of responsibility for NBAF from DHS to USDA?
Per guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, USDA will take over complete ownership and management of NBAF. The transition of responsibility from DHS to USDA will result in a more efficient alignment of core mission functions.
How is NBAF’s transition between USDA and DHS happening?
USDA and DHS have developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to outline agency responsibilities for the transition and continue to collaborate on standing up the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. DHS S&T has responsibility for finishing construction of the facility, while USDA will assume and retain operational responsibility for the facility.
The two departments are currently in the middle of a phased transition of facility operations while commissioning activities are ongoing. The goal of this phased transition is to mitigate the pandemic’s overall effect on the facility’s timeline and downstream milestones for operational standup and transition of the science mission from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
How many USDA employees will work at NBAF?
NBAF will eventually have about 400 USDA personnel. As of March 2023, more than 280 team members have been hired to support NBAF operations and science. Watch USAJobs and follow NBAF on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates.
How will NBAF engage with the community?
NBAF is actively engaged with the community providing updates by request and representing USDA NBAF at various local, state and regional events. Please send all questions and requests for NBAF presentations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What role could NBAF have played in the COVID-19 pandemic, and what role could it have in future pandemics?
The mission of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is to protect the United States against transboundary, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health. NBAF will be a critical component of a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priority—the development of animal vaccines and other countermeasures for the detection of diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from our nation’s farms and fields.
From the public health perspective, NBAF is the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the United States, which will enable scientists to work on the most high-consequence “zoonotic” animal diseases — those that can infect both livestock and people. Some studies have pointed to the fact that COVID-19 has an animal component, which means it could fall into the zoonotic category. In fact, more than 70 percent of emerging diseases that have affected humans in the last 10 years have an animal component. So, while NBAF will largely focus on animal diseases, it could play a supporting role in future public health crises with respect to livestock research, diagnostics, countermeasure development, training and response.
What specific expertise will NBAF bring to the table for future pandemics?
Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in New York at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) which is more than 68 years old. NBAF will replace this aging facility but will continue and expand on its mission making NBAF the home of internationally recognized animal disease experts who will likely be called upon to assist other countries in addressing significant animal disease situations and to partner with public health officials when needed to protect animal and human health.
NBAF also will be the future home of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) currently located at PIADC. FADDL’s mission is to provide 24/7 diagnostic testing to rapidly detect and respond to an introduction of a high-consequence, foreign animal disease into the United States like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or African swine fever. But because NBAF will have the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the U.S., we’ll also be able to identify, conduct research and develop veterinary countermeasures for the most high-consequence zoonotic diseases that can infect both livestock and people. Being able to identify these diseases in animals as soon as possible is critical to minimizing the impact on public health. The training facilities at NBAF will allow us to double the number of veterinarians trained by the FADDL team every year as part of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician Course, which provides an opportunity for federal and state veterinarians to see these diseases in real time so they can better understand them and know what to look for should an outbreak occur.