After years of controversy, nationwide bio-defense lab opens in Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — After greater than a decade of controversy and delays, the nation’s most safe biosecurity laboratory for analysis on doubtlessly lethal animal and plant illnesses has opened in Manhattan, Kansas.

Though a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday, researchers on the $1.25 billion Nationwide Bio and Agro-Protection Facility aren’t anticipated to start engaged on biohazards for greater than a 12 months, officers mentioned.

For now, employees will conduct compliance and regulatory work, put together protocols and working procedures and prepare earlier than working with any pathogens, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“They may test all of the programs in response to the worldwide requirements and nationwide requirements,” NBAF director Alfonso Clavijo mentioned. “And solely after we now have that approval will we be capable to truly do any work. We count on that by late 2024, we must always be capable to have that approval.”

Initially estimated to value $451 million, the worth tag greater than doubled after the Nationwide Analysis Council printed a report in 2010 that questioned placing the ability within the coronary heart of cattle nation with a historical past of huge, harmful tornadoes.

Division of Homeland Safety officers mentioned the elevated value got here partly as a result of the lab’s design was modified to scale back the opportunity of releasing lethal pathogens.

The laboratory replaces an getting older facility in Plum Island, New York. Officers there fought exhausting to maintain the lab and a number of other different states made bids to grow to be house to the lab earlier than Kansas was chosen in 2009.

Initially anticipated to open in 2016, development of the laboratory was delayed a number of occasions by financial issues, security issues and resistance from politicians who wished the undertaking of their states.

The northeastern Kansas facility would be the nation’s solely large-animal biosafety Stage 4 lab, which implies it will likely be in a position to deal with pathogens that don’t presently have therapies or countermeasures.

It’s unclear when pathogens utilized in analysis shall be moved from Plum Island to Kansas, spokesperson Katie Pawlosky mentioned, and no animals or gear shall be transferred.

About 280 individuals presently work on the lab, which is predicted to have greater than 400 individuals when totally staffed.