July 14, 2012
Animal Testing Center Project Should Be Scaled Back
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Plans for a billion-dollar facility to study potentially fatal animal diseases should be scaled back, officials from the National Research Council (NRC) said in a government-commissioned report released on Friday.
The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NABF), which would be built in Manhattan, Kansas, has some experts concerned that diseases being studied at the center could escape the center and cause immense agricultural damage, according to Kevin Murphy of Reuters.
As a result, the Department of Homeland Security asked an NRC subcommittee to study the issue, and specifically three options pertaining to the $1.14 billion facility's future -- proceed as planned, scale it back, or abandon the project and continue to rely on the more than five-decade old, Long Island-based Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC).
"The report was in response to tighter federal revenues and budget controls that are forcing agencies to rethink spending priorities," Associated Press (AP) reporter John Milburn explained in a July 13 article. "DHS asked the National Research Council to review the threats of foreign animal disease, the capabilities needed to address such threats and analyze options for building the lab as proposed or scaling back the size and scope."
While the panel's 134-page report stopped short of recommending any of the three choices presented, they did write "favorably" in regards to the possibility of scaling back the proposed center, Murphy said. They said that placing all of the research functions at the Kansas facility could potentially be a "duplication of resources," but emphasized that a new animal disease research laboratory of some sort is "imperative" to the country.
The Long Island center is home to what Reuters identifies as "Level 3" laboratories, which are designed to study animal-borne diseases. However, the PIADC does not have enough room to set-up more secure "Level 4" labs, which Homeland Security said would be used to study animal diseases that can spread to people.
The NRC panel said that the establishment of the new Kansas facility would eliminate the need to move specimens and other materials from one center to the other, the news agency added.
"The NAS fittingly recognizes that the need for a centralized laboratory focused on research, diagnostics and surveillance is imperative," Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran said in a statement released Friday, the AP said. "That laboratory should be NBAF, and it starts with construction of the central utility plant. We are pleased this promising review concludes any outstanding evaluations of NBAF."