Task force named to lure biodefense lab to Kansas

Gov. Sebelius names the team

? Leavenworth Mayor Laura Janas Gasbarre and Charlie Gregor, executive vice president of the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce will represent Leavenworth County on a governor’s task force charged with leading the state’s efforts to land the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced her 43 appointments to the panel, which also will include legislative appointments and one official from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The panel’s co-chairs will be Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson and Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture. The task force is made up of representatives from industry, academia, public officials, agricultural organizations and economic development groups.

“We already have outstanding assets, ranging from private sector firms like Hill’s and Bayer, to government institutions like the new food security facility at K-State. Kansas has a strong case to make for bringing the planned federal lab to our state,” Sebelius said in a news release issued by her office..

Eighteen sites in 11 states – including a site in Leavenworth County at 155th Street and Coffin Road, immediately west of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, and one at Kansas State University in Manhattan- had made the first cut in the competition to land the facility. It would employ about 250 scientists in a 500,000-square-foot, $451 million facility that includes a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, the highest level of biosafety.

The U.S. Homeland Security, Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments would jointly operate the lab. Its mission would include modernizing the nation’s efforts to combat foreign animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, and animal diseases that can infect humans, such as bird flu, anthrax and mad cow disease. The lab also would work to develop drugs, vaccines and other countermeasures against such diseases.

“NBAF would not only bring $450 million and hundreds of jobs into Kansas, it would also be another strong signal that our state is a national and international leader in cutting-edge bioscience research. The public-private partnership we are launching today is a crucial step to winning the facility,” Parkinson said.

“Not only will NBAF be responsible for the creation of hundreds of new construction jobs, as well as hundreds of new high-wage, high-skill research positions, but it will put Kansas at the forefront of bioscience discovery,” said Glickman, who now is president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The task force will coordinate community outreach and advocacy and serve as a focal point for public input on their proposals. It also will assist in the preparation of an environmental impact statement on the proposed sites, the Governor’s Office said.