Deliberations continue over NBAF

Deliberations by the National Research Council continued last week over the plans for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility proposed for the Manhattan, Kansas-based Kansas State University campus.

The controversial biodefense facility is under review by oversight agencies. A special committee with the NRC held three teleconferences with agencies already engaged in research in areas similar to the proposed facility's focus of deadly animal diseases, KCUR reports.

Terry McElwain, the chairman of the NRC committee, said the task of the committee is to assess the threats of zoonotic and foreign animal diseases to the nation and to determine what is needed in a new research and diagnostic bio containment laboratory. Members of the committee asked directors of other biodefense labs questions to see if a new lab is needed in the first place.

Lt. Col. Neal Woollen, a representative of the Army's primary biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Md., was asked what kind of animals the facility has the ability to study.

"Our animal handling capabilities here are pretty much the traditional lab animal species that range from small rodents up through non-human primates, " Woollen said, according to KCUR.

The NBAF would have the ability to study larger animals at the highest biosecurity level, BSL4. Other questions, however, found possible redundancies in the proposed facility's mission.

Kathryn Zoon, the director of the Division of Intramural Research at the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that like the NBAF, her scientists are involved in vaccine development connected with the Ebola, Marburg, Nipah and Hendra viruses, KCUR reports.

McElwain recommended that conclusions should not be drawn about the committee's report based on questions asked during the teleconferences. A separate committee is currently evaluating an updated risk assessment for the NBAF site from the Department of Homeland Security.