K-State official says lab funding may be included in 2013 budget

By Bill Felber

K-State’s vice president for research told Riley County commissioners Monday he believes that funds to begin construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility might yet be included in the FY 2013 federal budget.

Ron Trewyn termed himself “hopeful” of that outcome once a study panel concludes its re-examination of NBAF’s size and scope, a process it is expected to complete in June. That study group, which held a public hearing recently in Washington, was asked by President Obama to re-examine whether there were other options to constructing the level 4 biosecurity lab in Manhattan.

Trewyn acknowledged that when project officials heard about the reassessment, “there was great concern.” But he said he was “very pleased” with both the quality of the study group members and also with the charge they were given.

“They have experts from all overt the country,” Trewyn said. He added that the group’s charge clearly excluded looking at sites other than Manhattan, and was confined to the “size and scope” of the proposed facility.

”If the NBF is built, it will be built in Manhattan,” Trewyn said.

The NBAF is a level 4 biosecurity lab designed to replace the aging Plum Island Research facility, which the Department of Homeland Security intends to close. Level 4 is the highest security level for a research lab, and designates a facility capable of studying viruses that are transmitted between animals and humans, and for which no known cure exists.

Trewyn said that mission could theoretically lead to a recommendation that the NBAF be constructed here as originally planned, or in some sort of scaled-down version. He thought the third option – continuing to use Plum Island for level 3 type experiments and sending level 4 work overseas – was the least likely. That’s because Plum Island does not meet current standards for a level 3 facility.

The bids for the Central Utility Plan have been extended,” Trewyn told commissioners. “That means construction work still could start by the end of summer … assuming the reports come in appropriately.”

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