Science Units and Research Programs
Two USDA agencies conduct science at NBAF. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, works on the diagnostics needed to detect and respond to transboundary/foreign, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases in the United States. The Agricultural Research Service, or ARS, provides research and development of veterinary medical products — like vaccines and antivirals — to prevent and respond to transboundary/foreign, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases.
APHIS Diagnostics, Preparation, and Response
This laboratory conducts diagnostic testing and develops response measures to high-consequence infectious diseases of livestock including foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, and classical swine fever.
FADDL’s diagnostic mission is accomplished in three locations: PIADC, NBAF, and in Puerto Rico. FADDL’s mission includes 24/7 diagnostic testing, emergency response, and training support for federal and state veterinarians and diagnosticians. FADDL is a national reference laboratory through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and an international reference laboratory for the World Organisation for Animal Health and a reference center for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FADDL also manages two vaccine banks that serve to store vaccine antigen concentrate that can be formulated into vaccines if an FMD introduction were to occur.
The NVSL is comprised of three other laboratories: the Diagnostic Virology Laboratory; Diagnostic Bacteriology and Pathology Laboratory; and Diagnostic Bioanalytical and Reagent Laboratory. The mission of these other three labs complement FADDL and are located at the National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa.
FADDL is composed of five service sections:
- The Diagnostic Services Section
Scientists in this section have the capability to diagnose more than 30 foreign animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever, and other diseases listed by the World Organization for Animal Health.
They perform thousands of diagnostic tests each year, looking for the presence of foreign animal disease agents. Tissue and blood samples that need testing are submitted by veterinarians, who suspect a foreign disease in domestic livestock or by animal import centers testing quarantined animals for foreign diseases. Samples also are submitted by animal health professionals in other countries who need help with a diagnosis.
- The Reagents and Vaccine Services Section
Scientists in this section develop, produce, and test standard diagnostic reagents; conduct material safety treatments; prepare materials for the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician training course; operate the National Transboundary Animal Disease Biorepository; and conduct diagnostic assay development and optimizations.
- The Scientific Liaison Services Section
The scientists in this section provide scientific support for pathogen surveillance and discovery through development and application of advanced metagenomics analysis; collaborate with national and international partners to develop and field validate novel diagnostic methodologies; and build and support biosafety level-4 laboratory competency and operations at NBAF.
- The Proficiency and Validation Service Section
Scientists in this section support NAHLN, by producing proficiency panels and controls for foreign animal disease diagnostics; verify and validate diagnostic tests for internal and external stakeholders; and serve as liaisons for risk analysis and coordination of foreign animal disease safety testing for import and export materials that have an animal origin.
- The Vaccine Banks
Scientists in this section procure and test supplies for the North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasure Bank; maintain stockpiles; produce reagents; provide technical support; and enhance preparedness and emergency response capability and capacity for foreign/transboundary animal diseases.
ARS Research and Development
This unit is moving from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to NBAF. FADRU’s mission is to protect the U.S. from foreign animal pathogens through basic and applied research.
FADRU’s research includes understanding viral genomics, disease pathogenesis, and disease ecology; and applying this knowledge for rational and effective development of veterinary medical countermeasures — such as biotherapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics. They also develop and conduct research on strategies for prevention, control and recovery from foreign animal diseases.
FADRU primarily focuses on foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever and classical swine fever.
FABADRU focuses on viruses specifically known as arboviruses, which are transmitted to animals and humans through arthropod vectors. These arboviruses typically infect mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks as a part of the viral cycle in nature.
Their research includes pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes such as Rift Valley fever and Japanese encephalitis virus, along with Vesicular Stomatitis Virus, which is transmitted in nature by multiple arthropod vectors.
ZEDRU focuses on emerging and re-emerging pathogens that can potentially affect animals and people including Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, a tick-borne disease, and Nipah virus, which causes encephalitis and respiratory illness in pigs and people. ZEDRU will primarily focus on pathogens that are classified as risk level 4 and require maximum biocontainment.
NBAF’s biosafety level-4 facilities will allow the unit to safely perform research in large livestock that currently cannot be performed at any other facility in the United States.
The BDM is a proof-of-concept facility that will take NBAF’s basic research and translate it into applied science like vaccines, diagnostics and other veterinary medical products. The BDM will collaborate with industry partners to enhance and expedite the transition of these innovations from research to commercially-viable products to prevent or fight animal disease outbreaks around the world.
The transition of research from discovery through proof-of-concept, process optimization, and product licensure carries a significant risk of failure to get a return on investment for industry partners. This is especially true in limited market areas such as transboundary and emerging veterinary pathogens. Through a project development plan, the BDM will help industry partners see the potential in new discoveries developed through NBAF’s research and de-risk those potential projects so industry stakeholders can understand their return on investment.
The BDM lab space exists outside of NBAF’s main biosafety level-3 and -4 lab spaces operating as a BSL-2 lab space. Within NBAF’s secure campus and with access to facility safety support systems, some portions of the BDM have the capacity to scale up to function as a BSL-3 production space if needed.
BDM Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.3 MB)