Food safety research helped land bio-defense lab to Manhattan
Thursday, December 4, 2008
MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University's solid reputation as a leader in animal health and food safety research is stronger than ever with the announcement of K-State as the site for the relocation of a federal animal health laboratory.
The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, known as NBAF, will be located adjacent to the K-State campus, bringing hundreds of animal health researchers with it.
"This might very well be the most important thing that has happened to Kansas State University in the entire history of the university," said K-State President Jon Wefald. "Never before in the history of Kansas has a national federal laboratory of this magnitude been sited in the state. We are talking about a half-billion dollar animal health facility that will be the finest laboratory of its kind in the entire world. After all, there will be hundreds of world-class scientists doing research in this facility."
K-State has more than 150 of its own faculty and staff active in the food safety and animal health arenas. Since 1999, K-State has dedicated more than $70 million to related research. K-State's expertise in animal health has a huge impact on human health as well. Many of K-State's researchers focus on zoonotic diseases — that is, diseases that can be transmitted between humans and other animals.
The Department of Hospitality Management and Dietetics and the Department of Human Nutrition are among those across campus active in food safety research.
K-State claims nationally prominent medical defense researchers and veterinarians Jerry Jaax and Nancy Jaax. Jerry Jaax is K-State's associate vice president for research compliance and university veterinarian; Nancy Jaax is program director for food safety and security. They were key participants in dealing with the 1989 Reston Ebola outbreak. The outbreak was detailed in Richard Preston's best-selling book, "The Hot Zone."
Bringing renowned researchers from across the world to campus is not unusual. Juergen Richt is Regents Distinguished Professor of diagnostic medicine/pathobiology and Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar at K-State. In November he was host of an Emerging Infections Symposium that brought nearly 150 researchers from around the world to K-State from across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security weighed five other sites for the location of the new federal laboratory, Ron Trewyn, K-State's vice president for research, led the effort to secure NBAF. He emphasized K-State's research while coordinating outreach efforts with the Kansas Bioscience Authority, as well as with the Midwest Research Institute and the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute. Trewyn and the K-State team worked with Tom Thornton and his staff at the Kansas Bioscience Authority to coordinate collaborative efforts with multiple states and universities.
Wefald said that having NBAF near K-State will boost all sciences across campus.
"This facility will not only ratchet up all of the biosciences and all of the sciences in the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture, Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences and Engineering, but it also will definitely accelerate K-State's progress in terms of having the greatest food safety and security and animal health programs anywhere in the world," he said.
"In short, this decision will extraordinarily enhance K-State's standing as one of America's great research universities."