DHS continues assessment of NBAF

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The task force appointed by the Department of Homeland Security to assess the viability of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is currently looking at three critical components to the $650 million project.

Ron Trewyn, vice president of research at Kansas State University, provided the latest information regarding the committee and its findings to the Riley County Commission on Monday.

“Committees that are formed in Washington don’t always hit that bar of being the search you wan’t to see in place, but this is a very, very good group,” Trewyn said.

The committee held a public forum last Friday.

“(They’re) looking at the current size and scope of NBAF,” Trewyn said. “It’s in the final stages of being 100 percent designed. The numbered reported on Friday was 75 percent but it is essentially designed and ready to go.”

The possibility of reducing the physical size of the facility is being considered. Additionally, the committee is examining whether making significant renovations to the Plum Island (N.Y.) Animal Disease Center would be an effective long term solution. Trewyn doesn’t see this as a viable option.

“The existing Plum Island facility can’t meet today’s standards that our bio-security research institute and all other bio-containment facilities running in the country today are required to meet,” Trewyn said.

Plum Island is presently authorized to handle Biosafety Level 3 agriculture while maintaining Biosafety Level 2 and 3 facilities. NBAF will be placed in the Biosafety Level 4 classification, thus equipped to handle a variety of diseases.

“Many of the diseases that are going to be worked on in NBAF are zoonatic, meaning they spread from animals to people,” Trewyn said. “Probably two-thirds to three-fourths of the emerging diseases fall in that category. They cannot work on any zoonatic diseases at Plum Island.

“They can’t work on any of the vector-borne diseases because the infrastructure won’t allow it. Things that are mosquito-borne or tick-borne, they can’t look at that level of transmission, which NBAF will be able to do.”

The committee will have a short time to weight the alternatives. The group is expected to report its findings back to the DHS by the end of June.