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Archive for Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bug-borne disease lab heading to state

October 31, 2009

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— Another federal research lab dedicated to animal diseases is headed for Manhattan, Kan.

Congress had earlier approved $1.5 million to move the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Laboratory from Laramie, Wyo., to Kansas. The lab works with livestock diseases spread by insects and arachnids, such as ticks, midges and mosquitoes.

A group of federal, state and local officials will officially announce the lab’s move Monday at a news conference in Manhattan.

The lab, which employs about 25 researchers and other staff, is expected to be operating in Manhattan by next summer, said Michael McGuire, associate area director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Laramie researchers will be offered positions in Manhattan, he said.

Tom Thornton, chief executive officer of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said his agency is providing a matching $1.5 million to help with the move.

Thornton said the lab represents another major win for the region’s growing reputation as a national center for animal health research. Manhattan already is home to the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center and has been chosen to house the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which will deal with highly contagious diseases, such as foot-and-mouth.

In addition, dozens of private companies working in animal health have set up shop in a corridor running from Manhattan to Columbia, Mo., taking advantage of proximity to area universities and many of the nation’s livestock operations.

“We as a region, as a state can certainly expect additional federal investment in the animal health realm because we’ve shown why this region can support and accelerate research in this area,” Thornton said.

He added that with increased concern about insect-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus, making the jump from livestock to humans, the lab’s research won’t be restricted to the farm.

The USDA opened the arthropod lab at the University of Wyoming in the mid-1980s. Agency officials began searching for a new home two years ago when the facility no longer met minimum requirements for containing some of the diseases researchers work with.

In some cases, researchers have had to travel more than 70 miles to more secure facilities in Fort Collins, Colo., and Canada, McGuire said.

USDA officials originally recommended moving the lab to the newly renovated and expanded National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa. But during the congressional appropriations process this year, the direction was changed to Manhattan, despite a USDA review that determined moving there would cost more than Ames and not meet all the agency’s requirements.

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