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Posted 04.30.07

 
 
   

MU Makes First Cut in Selection Process for Federal Research Facility

Federal Officials will Visit Proposed Site in May

COLUMBIA, MO - A 100-acre site in Columbia has been named as one of 17 sites in the country competing for the opportunity to host a federal research facility that will study non-native animal diseases and other pathogens. University of Missouri-Columbia officials have led the effort, which includes a wide array of public and private partners. The facility, known as the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), would be located on a 100-acre parcel of land north of New Haven Road. Federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will visit May 10 and 11 to view the site and examine the proposal with the MU consortium. Originally, 28 sites were proposed.

"The NBAF offers an unparalleled opportunity to provide economic development, both because of the facility and the supporting businesses that will result," said Jim Coleman, vice chancellor for research. "New scientists coming to Columbia will give opportunities for new research and experiences for our graduate and undergraduate students. There also is a major medical advantage to this facility. With the new cadre of scientists that will be attracted to the NBAF and MU, it will put MU at the forefront of finding cures for various agricultural diseases and diseases that might pass from animals to humans."

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MU officials are leading a consortium that submitted a letter of intent proposing the site in late March 2006. The consortium includes Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis University, the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, and various Kansas City animal health companies including Bayer, Fort Dodge and Boehringer Ingelheim.

When completed, the NBAF will be approximately 500,000 square feet and employ about 250 scientists and support personnel. Construction costs are estimated to be $450 million. The remaining 17 sites will be narrowed to three to five sites this summer. Those sites will undergo environmental impact studies that will address issues including environmental concerns and community acceptance. During the environmental impact study, there will be opportunity for further public comment. DHS plans to announce the final NBAF site selection in October 2008. Following design and construction phases, the facility should be operational by 2014.

"To control epidemics and protect the public health, medical researchers must be able to quickly identify naturally emerging microbes and biothreat agents and develop treatments and vaccines for them," said George Stewart, professor and chair of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. "The design and operation of biosafety laboratories allow this work to be done safely. Records at federal biocontainment laboratories indicate an outstanding record of safety. In the last 21 years, there has been no documented case of any outbreaks from laboratory operations."

DHS officials have indicated that their May site visit will not be open to the public or media representatives.

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MU News Bureau: http://munews.missouri.edu/NewsBureauSingleNews.cfm?newsid=14885