MANHATTAN — A federal animal disease lab headed to Kansas will likely bring along companies looking to profit from that research, Sen. Sam Brownback said Monday.
Brownback, along with state and local leaders, formally announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Laboratory is moving to Manhattan from Laramie, Wyo.
The lab, expected to open by August, studies livestock diseases spread by insects and arachnids, such as mosquitoes and ticks.
The announcement came months after Manhattan was selected as the location for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which will deal with highly contagious diseases, such as foot-and-mouth.
"Kansas is quickly becoming the epicenter of the animal health industry for the United States and the world," said Brownback, a Kansas Republican whose office worked to get the lab, which receives about $3.5 million a year for research.
Brownback later said entrepreneurs working to turn the lab's discoveries into products for farmers and ranchers will want to set up shop in Kansas, creating jobs and contributing to the local economy.
"It's another piece of the puzzle," he said.
Much of the focus Monday was on six lab employees who attended the news conference and who will be offered jobs at the new location. Many officials talked up the area, as well as the region's support for their type of research.
"This is a state that gets this type of research, embraces it," said Tom Thornton, chief executive officer of the Kansas Bioscience Authority. "The work you do is terribly important."
The USDA is looking to replace the Laramie lab, which has become outdated and no longer meets security standards for some of the high-risk diseases the researchers work with, including Rift Valley fever and West Nile virus.
A provision in the federal agriculture appropriations bill signed into law last month by President Obama provided $1.5 million for the relocation. The Kansas Bioscience Authority provided another $1.5 million to outfit the new space, part of which is on Kansas State University's campus.