Business Perspectives

Manhattan a center for animal health

When Kansas State University was named the new site of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, we knew that Manhattan and the surrounding area would become a research magnet.

As the westernmost tip of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, bio-industry in the Midwest was already taking notice of the Little Apple.

In the past several months, K-State has drawn in two more federal entities — the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit and the Department of Homeland Security's national Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases — not to mention the dozens of inquiries from the private sector.

The decision to place these three labs in Manhattan reinforces what K-Staters already knew: We are among the best when it comes to tackling animal and agricultural disease and keeping the nation safe. After all, we've been working on animal and agricultural threats since the turn of the 20th century.

K-State and Manhattan are ready to become the heart of international research for food-animal infectious diseases, and we welcome the chance to partner with more private business in this endeavor.

Collaboration with bio-related businesses is critical to the success of research at both the state and federal level.

For many years, K-State's experts in animal and agricultural disease have sought out and worked with the best in the field because they know that synergy leads to timely solutions. Businesses that come to the area will be treated with the same respect and willingness to partner.

That collaborative spirit also is part of the reason K-State offered the Biosecurity Research Institute to federal researchers as part of the university's bid for NBAF. The opportunity for federally funded research to begin before NBAF is complete was a definite advantage. That willingness also is a signal that the university is clearly committed to whatever is needed to protect the nation's food supply and public health.

The ability to kick-start research means that solutions to the impending disease threats will be developed sooner. The public's food supply and health are at stake. The timely development of ways to prevent, counter and treat animal disease is an integral piece of public health.

Close collaboration with qualified partners from the private sector will be key to making this happen.

In addition to the scientific growth resulting from this partnership, these developments bring a sizable economic benefit not to be ignored.

Once NBAF is complete it will employ around 350 people, the majority of them well-paid scientists. That adds $30 million in annual payroll to the local economy, in addition to the facility's $125 million operating budget.

New businesses drawn to the region and state will only bolster that economic effect, resulting in additional benefits. Companies lured to a community by federal research facilities typically pay a high wage — wages that are spent in the local community and that lead to the creation of other jobs and business opportunities.

K-State has been committed to excellence in the biosciences for more than 100 years and has been an economic driver in the region for at least as long. Now, with the Biosecurity Research Institute, NBAF, the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit and national Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, Manhattan is becoming the equivalent of an international CDC for animal health.

The addition of private business to the mix will benefit all of the players and accelerate growth in the university's expertise.