NBAF discusses foreign disease research unit

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The National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan be home to several different research units.

One of the units that will be housed inside the facility will be the Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit which is currently housed at Plum Island. Dr. Luis Rodriguez, research leader of the unit, talks more about the responsibilities of his team.

“To protect US agricultural assets and keep our food supply safe and our $1.5 trillion agricultural industry and food-related industry protected from these foreign animal diseases,” Rodriguez says.

Dr. Rodriguez says his team works with several diseases. He says that recently they have had a big focus on the African Swine Fever and they were able to develop a vaccine.

“A group of our scientists led by Dr. Manuel Borca, was able to actually develop a new vaccine, and this vaccine is actually very effective and very safe,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “Recently it was licensed to multiple pharmaceutical companies that are developing these vaccines and we just learned, through a news release, that one of those companies in Vietnam was able to produce the first batch of the vaccines and are testing them in animals and showed, as we found in the experiment, they found that the vaccine is safe. We are very hopeful that for the first time. we will have African Swine Fever vaccine, perhaps even within this year, available for controlling this devastating disease.”

Dr. Rodriguez adds just how important this vaccine is.

“African Swine Fever is devastating the pork industry in Asia, and throughout Europe- parts of Europe, and of course it exists also in Africa,” Rodriguez says.

Dr. Rodriguez says that making the move to a new state-of-the-art facility in Manhattan will enable them to do even more research to continue fighting diseases such as the African Swine Fever. He says with the new facility they will also be able to conduct research on zoonotic diseases. In addition, Rodriguez says he is excited to have Kansas State right next door.

“I must say that we do have a very close collaboration already with KSU. In addition, we have a number of KSU faculty who are actually working at Plum Island. We also have very strong collaborators among KSU faculty in Manhattan,” Rodriguez says.

The National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan is still a work in progress and is expected to be fully operational by September 2023.

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