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NBAF tour sheds light on swine health capabilities, priorities

Facility first in the United States to provide maximum biocontainment laboratories capable of housing veterinary diagnostics, countermeasures and vaccines.

April 20, 2023

3 Min Read
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NBAF

Presentations by the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility directors and research leaders, in addition to touring the facility, recently provided important insight into potential collaboration opportunities to pork industry representatives who share a mission to protect U.S. swine herd health.

"Seeing the facility firsthand provided a valuable opportunity to learn about future capabilities, capacity and priorities relating to U.S. swine health," said SHIC Associate Director Megan Niederwerder. The group also visited the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University and heard from leadership there before receiving a tour.

In early April 2023, NBAF provided the facility and research update to staff leaders from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and the Swine Health Information Center. USDA will own and operate the Manhattan, Kansas, state-of-the-art NBAF facility they term a national asset, intended to help protect the nation's agriculture industry, farmers and citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.

"With the mission of NBAF to protect the U.S. against animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health, the pork industry has significant interests in the science planned for this world-class facility," said Lisa Becton, director of swine health, National Pork Board.

Per the USDA website, NBAF will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a biosafety level-3 facility that is more than 68 years old. When complete, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will transfer their research and diagnostic missions to NBAF and will jointly operate the facility. In December 2022, contractor construction and commissioning were completed. The USDA team at NBAF currently has access to the facility and started a phase of transition from Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the new site.

Comprehensive research, development of vaccines and antivirals, as well as enhanced diagnostic and training capabilities will all occur at NBAF to protect the nation from foreign or transboundary animal diseases. Emerging (new or increasing) and zoonotic (able to infect animals and humans) diseases will be a focus.

The NBAF Frequently Asked Questions web page includes information from the World Health Organization which states more than 70% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. The FAQs also say, USDA will expand its scientific work at NBAF and be the first in the United States to provide maximum biocontainment (biosafety level-4) laboratories capable of housing veterinary diagnostics, countermeasures and vaccines. Through these initiatives, USDA will be able to expand its support of global health and food security.

Presentations by leadership at the Biosecurity Research Institute detailed its missions and objectives. The BRI conducts comprehensive infectious disease research to address threats to plant, animal and human health, including food-borne pathogens. The ability to perform multidisciplinary research on multiple pathogens and host species within a single facility stands out as a unique feature of the BRI. In addition to highly trained staff and research support, the BRI provides training for the next generation of scientists who will study recurring and emerging infectious diseases. The facility's high biosecurity lab spaces offer a diverse range of research and educational opportunities.

SHIC, launched by the National Pork Board in 2015 solely with Pork Checkoff funding, continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness and response to novel and emerging swine disease for the benefit of U.S. swine health. SHIC is funded by America's pork producers to fulfill its mission to protect and enhance the health of the U.S. swine herd. 

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