Kansas Site Gets Final OK to Host Biological Defense Lab

The U.S. Homeland Security Department has finalized its decision to build a planned $450 million biological defense laboratory at a 59-acre site in Kansas, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, Dec. 5, 2008).

When built on the Kansas State University property at Manhattan, the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility would assume responsibility for research on anthrax and other diseases conducted for decades by a laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y.

The department would not comment on the approval because the final record of decision was not made public, but the state's U.S. senators verified that Homeland Security Undersecretary Jay Cohen had signed the document.

"With this new lab, Kansas will cement its reputation as the nation's leader in plant and animal health research and the biosciences," Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said in a statement. "We will reap the benefits of a cutting edge industry while protecting the nation's food supply and agricultural economy for years to come."

Kansas State officials suggested that the nearby Biosecurity Research Institute might assume some of the laboratory's duties until the new facility is ready in 2015. Institute scientists already conduct sensitive studies involving crop and livestock ailments.

Kansas edged out several other states competing to host the site, prompting threats from Texas and Mississippi officials to challenge the decision in court.

Texas Governor Rick Perry argued last week that lawmakers in his state were not convened last year to draw up a competitive financial offer, ultimately skewing the selection process (John Milburn, Associated Press/Google News, Jan. 13).

January 13, 2009
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The U.S. Homeland Security Department has finalized its decision to build a planned $450 million biological defense laboratory at a 59-acre site in Kansas, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, Dec. 5, 2008).