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Friday, January 16, 2009

Kansas Officially Selected for $450M "Bio-Agro" Defense Lab Facility

Kansas officially selected for biothreat lab



Kansas State University
Record of decision
Department of Homeland Security

TOPEKA, Kan. - It's official: The Department of Homeland Security picked a site Friday in Kansas for a $450 million laboratory to study livestock diseases.

The agency's Directorate for Science and Technology made its decision official Friday by publishing it in the federal record. The document affirmed a decision announced in December to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at the Manhattan, Kan., campus to replace an aging lab at Plum Island, N.Y.

Sites in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas were the other finalists.

Scientists will be researching and developing new vaccines for deadly foreign animal and other biological threats, including foot-and-mouth disease.

Construction is expected to begin in 2010, and the project's costs could increase from the $450 million initially estimated by the Department of Homeland Security. The bulk of the cost will be covered by federal funds, and the facility is expected to open by 2015.

Homeland Security Undersecretary Jay Cohen said in a written statement Friday that completion of the three-year selection process was important to maintaining a safe and secure food supply for the nation.

"The selected site was be to best meet the immediate need of the research and work force requirements of the NBAF mission," Cohen wrote, adding that Kansas was "the best overall proposal."

News of the document finalizing the decision was first announced Monday by members of Kansas' congressional delegation. A copy of the decision, dated and signed by Cohen, was obtained by The Associated Press, although Department of Homeland Security officials declined to comment until Friday.

Officials in Texas are considering a legal challenge to the decision, saying that the process was flawed.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius spoke Monday with Cohen about the decision.

"I'm thrilled it's now official, and we look forward to putting our research expertise and infrastructure to good use as the nation's partner in protecting the food supply and agriculture economy," the governor said Friday.

A federal steering committee gave unanimous approval in December to selecting the Kansas site. That decision was based on, among other criteria, the availability of researchers to support the lab's mission and the Kansas package of incentives.

The laboratory is to be built on 59 acres at Kansas State near the Biosecurity Research Institute, where similar activities are conducted on plant and animal diseases.

The lab is expected to generate about 1,500 construction jobs and a payroll of $25 million to $30 million for more than 500 employees, including 300 researchers.

The Plum Island site, located on Long Island, has operated for more than 50 years and has been the only lab capable of researching foot-and-mouth disease.

Kansas State is on the western edge of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, stretching to Columbia, Mo., and including the University of Missouri, University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

More than 120 animal health firms have a presence in the corridor, employing about 13,000 workers.

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