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Biosecurity facility to be done in 2006

MANHATTAN -- A team of Kansas State University biosecurity experts warned Congress four years ago of the potential for a terrorist attack on the nation's food supply -- a full two years before the events of 9-11.

Sen. Pat Roberts recalled the KSU team's visionary 1999 Senate subcommittee testimony during a ceremonial ground breaking Friday for a $50 million Biosecurity Research Institute on campus.

"President (Jon) Wefald's team came to Washington and outlined the possible agri-terrorist threat, and gave us a blueprint for action," Roberts said. "We took Jon's blueprint, we went to work. As a result, KSU is a leader in the fight against global terrorism and is now a catalyst for a better Kansas economy."

Matt Stamey/The Capital-Journal
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius helps break ground at the site for Kansas State University's new $50 million Biosecurity Research Institute in Manhattan.
When completed in 2006, the structure will include about 34,000 square feet of laboratory and office space for researchers, said Ron Trewyn, KSU vice provost for research.

"This multi-faceted facility will allow our food and meat scientists to test techniques and equipment against food-borne disease-causing organisms, such as E. coli," he said. "It will help the food industry with safer, more effective production techniques."

The new research center will provide expanded laboratory space for KSU plant scientists to accelerate the on-going fight against diseases that affect crops in Kansas.

"The building will also be a place where animal health experts can study diseases that cause livestock producers in Kansas tens of millions of dollars," Trewyn said, "as well as to protect livestock from foreign diseases such as 'foot and mouth.' "

According to former Kansas Board of Regents chairman Clay C. Blair III, of Olathe, the facility is expected to generate revenue from corporate and other private-sector business contracts to support K-State's overall educational mission.

This is an artist's rendering of what Kansas State University's new Biosecurity Research Institute will look like.
Primary funding for the project will come from a $120 million industrial revenue package authorized by the 2002 Legislature.

In addition to the K-State project, the Legislature's bond fund also will finance a proposed aviation research center at Wichita State University and a University of Kansas life sciences project, which is under construction.

Actual construction of the KSU research building is expected to begin in about six months, Blair said.

As for the future, Wefald predicted the facility would house an agricultural "SWAT team" consisting of "K-Staters, state veterinarians, the USDA and the National Guard and everybody else."

"This building, I can say to you, without question is vital for America's national security interests," he said. "That's how important this building is."

Matt Moline is freelance writer in Manhattan. He can be reached at moline@networksplus.net

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