(L-R)Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Dr. Ralph Richardson; KBA President and CEO Tom Thornton; and Kansas State University Vice President of Research Dr. Ron Trewyn. Photo courtesy of Christine Murray, Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

I attended the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor “Corridor Conversations,” a quarterly presentation by people in the animal health industry, in Kansas City, Mo. The topic of the evening was the National Bio and AgroDefense Facility (NBAF) that will built in Manhattan, Kan., in close proximity to Kansas State University. The NBAF is supposed to be completed and commissioned by 2017.

Tom Thornton, President and CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) and Dr. Ron Trewyn, Vice President of Research at KansasStateUniversity, spoke to a group of about 80 people representing animal health, universities and associated industries within the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.

“The NBAF has helped raise the visibility of the region as the center of animal health innovation,” Thornton said. The NBAF, he says, has a national challenge of protecting America’s food supply and agriculture economy. It will replace the aging PlumIsland facility.

“Intentional or unintentional threat of foreign animal disease is real,” Thornton said. “Currently there are no facilities with the capability and functionality of the upcoming NBAF.”

Advantages to Manhattan
KSU’s Trewyn noted that the proximity to research was the number one parameter of site selection for the NBAF. Other factors included the support of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, K-State’s veterinary school, the biocontainment facility at K-State and others. The ties and proximity to a veterinary school and agriculture schools were very important in site selection for all the sites, he said. “The world’s largest concentration of animal health companies is here to support research and product development,” he noted.

The benefit of the location also means that research and collaboration can start as early as 2010 with K-State and other entities – it doesn’t have to wait until completion of the NBAF in 2017. “We can get a jump start on research,” Trewyn said. “Five of the eight diseases of interest we can already start working on.”

The road to the NBAF hasn’t been the easiest. A 15-month study to determine site selection had to be done. Trewyn says frivolous lawsuits have also tried to slow down the process. You don’t get much more frivolous than a lawsuit filed in federal court that cited the movie The Wizard of Oz as “proof” of giant Kansas tornadoes.

I’m excited, for one, to see the NBAF in Manhattan. The jobs, the research and the benefit to animal health and human society will be enormous. I have confidence in the safety of the facility and the benefit to Kansas and the world that it will provide.