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Collaborative Biosecurity Research Initiative Launched to Target Animal and Public Health Threats Nationally
Date:1/15/2008

OLATHE, Kan., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Kansas Bioscience Authority has launched a $2.5 million initiative to bring together researchers nationwide to create products that protect Americans from the intentional use of animal-borne diseases to disrupt the national economy or to infect humans.

The goals of the new Collaborative Biosecurity Research Initiative (CBRI) are to support interinstitutional research to: (1) develop countermeasures for foreign-animal diseases; (2) provide advanced test and evaluation capability for threat detection, vulnerability, and countermeasure assessment for animal and zoonotic diseases; (3) support licensure of vaccine countermeasures through essential animal-model testing and evaluation; and (4) strengthen biosecurity capabilities of institutions serving certain regions and populations, such as students underrepresented in biosecurity research.

Agricultural and food infrastructure is a key component of U.S. economic productivity and growth, accounting for 12 percent of the nation's gross domestic product ($1.24 trillion) and representing one in six jobs in direct or related employment.

KBA president Tom Thornton said a deliberate assault, such as a terrorist attack, or a natural outbreak, could damage the public trust in agricultural safety and the national ability to provide food and other agricultural products.

"We're issuing a call today for the nation's brightest researchers to partner with us to protect public health and safeguard the agriculture economy," Thornton said. "Our facilities are highly specialized and world-class, and our scientists are doing world-class research. Now is the time for collaboration to take on this important national challenge."

The CBRI will introduce the unique biosecurity research capabilities and facilities at Kansas State University to investigators nationally and develop strategic alliances to promptly confront animal and public health threats by leveraging multidisciplinary expertise. The initiative will allow academic, federal-agency and nonprofit researchers to collaborate with K-State scientists to perform research not possible at their home institutions.

Ron Trewyn, K-State's vice president for research, said the CBRI will provide up to $500,000 to investigators conducting projects in partnership with researchers at the university's Biosecurity Research Institute.

"The research horsepower leveraged by this initiative will enable K-State and our collaborators to play a critical role in protecting our nation from high-consequence biological threats," Trewyn said. "And we will now be able to take the one-of-a-kind facility we have in the Biosecurity Research Institute to the broader scientific community."

K-State's BRI is a state-of-the-art facility where investigators can address threats requiring BSL-3 and BSL-3Ag biocontainment. The BRI functional cores include: animal rooms for research on infectious diseases of livestock and poultry (holding up to 32 eight-hundred pound cattle and more smaller species); food processing space; plant science research laboratories for the development of plant-based vaccines; and insect vector and basic molecular biology laboratories.

According to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, the combination of Kansas' enormous agriculture industry and longstanding expertise in zoonotic disease research makes the state a natural leader in the effort to prevent and fight agro-terrorism.

"We put the food on America's dinner table, so we take the responsibility of protecting the families around that table very seriously," Roberts said.

Further, Kansas House Speaker Melvin Neufeld said the CBRI advances the important work envisioned for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF).

"Kansas State University is one of six sites under consideration for the NBAF, and initiatives like this highlight our commitment to win it on the merits," Neufeld said. "Our state already has established itself as a world leader in animal and plant biosciences. The Collaborative Biosecurity Research Initiative and the NBAF complement and expand the work of the Biosecurity Research Institute, a state-of-the-art facility at Kansas State University, as well as the numerous plant and animal companies already in our state. The NBAF would be a great fit in Kansas.

Kansas, with particular strengths in agri-business and veterinary medicine, is home to nearly one third of the $14.2 billion global animal-health industry and 45 animal-health companies' U.S. or international headquarters.

The CBRI is open to faculty members of U.S. academic research universities, federal-agency researchers, and nonprofit research institutions. Eligible applicants must conduct research and development at the BRI in collaboration with a Kansas Board of Regents institution. Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis for scientific merit, potential for attracting matching funds, and elements of collaboration. For full details, see http://www.kansasbioauthority.org


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SOURCE Kansas State University
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