After more than a decade of controversy and delays, the nation’s safest biosafety lab for researching life-threatening animal and plant diseases has opened in Manhattan, Kansas.
Although a groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday, researchers at the $1.25 billion National Biodefense and Agro-Defense Facility aren’t expected to begin work on biohazard for more than a year. year, officials said.
For now, staff will perform compliance and regulatory work, prepare protocols and operating procedures, and train before working with pathogens, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
“They will check all systems to international standards and national standards,” NBAF manager Alfonso Clavijo said. “And only after we get that approval can we actually do any work. We anticipate that by the end of 2024 we should be able to have that approval.
Originally estimated at $451 million, the price more than doubled after the National Research Council released a report in 2010 that questioned the establishment of the facility in the heart of cattle country with a history of large destructive tornadoes.
Department of Homeland Security officials said the increased costs were due in part to the lab’s design being changed to reduce the possibility of releasing deadly pathogens.
The lab replaces an aging facility on Plum Island, New York. Officials there fought to keep the lab, and several other states made bids to become the lab’s headquarters before Kansas was chosen in 2009.
Opening initially planned for 2016, construction of the laboratory has been delayed several times by economic problems, security concerns and resistance from politicians who wanted the project in their states.
The northeast Kansas facility will be the only large animal biosafety level 4 laboratory in the nation, meaning it will be able to handle pathogens that currently do not have treatments or countermeasures.
It is not known when the pathogens used in the research will be moved from Plum Island to Kansas, spokeswoman Katie Pawlosky said, and no animals or equipment will be moved.
About 280 people currently work in the laboratory, which should number more than 400 people when it is complete.