Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is ...

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is ...

Article excerpt

A $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is under construction in Manhattan, and almost no one talks economic development in the area without mentioning its effect.

Manhattan and Kansas State University beat out 29 other cities vying for the federal project, a biosafety level 4 lab that will be the nation's top animal disease research facility, replacing New York's Plum Island Animal Disease Center. BSL 4 labs have the highest safety precautions, which allows staff to work with transmittable pathogens.

The potential for the Manhattan area is vast, said John Pagen, vice president at the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Homeland Security's numbers to us were $3.6 billion in economic impact over its first 20 years; $180 million a year for 20 years," Pagen said, adding that while the research to be conducted at NBAF is important, the businesses that will move to Manhattan to be near the federal lab are also critical.

"I think our town right now is just in a really sweet spot, both growth and opportunity," Pagen said. "Opportunity to do a lot of great things for not only this region, but really for the whole Midwest. Getting NBAF was far bigger than just what one community did. It was the Midwest region really helping get it."

Ron Trewyn is serving as K-State's liaison to NBAF. He began working in the position in 2014, before site excavation work began. It will be 2023 before NBAF is up and running.

The selection of Manhattan as the site put the community on the radar of companies around the world, he said. A few already decided to open small labs or offices in the Little Apple, in preparation for working with the lab.

One of those is Orion Integrated Biosciences, a Larchmont, N.Y., biodefense company that announced in May it would open an office to be near both NBAF and work already being done by K-State scientists. CEO Willy Valdivia told KSU that moving to the area early would help his company respond to "cycles of innovation that must happen very quickly."

The Veterinary and Biomedical Research Center, in the K-State Office Park, was another organization that wanted to capitalize on the synergies of animal health research that happen at the university, both in the future NBAF and the Biosecurity Research Institute already operating on campus.

The VBRC moved its BSL 2 lab, building an $8 million facility, to be the "first company to come to Manhattan in that realm relative to NBAF," Trewyn said.

The sizeable facility is just 10 minutes from the NBAF site, in Pottawatomie County. CEO Kelly Lectenberg has been in the business for 25 years and "interacts with every large animal health and even human pharmaceutical companies around the world," Trewyn added. …

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