The ultimate in controlled environments are bio- safety level- 4 (BSL- 4) labs which are designed for work with severe to fatal diseases for which there are no known cures. There are about 52 BSL- 4 (or P4 in Europe) labs either operating or under
construction, with 15 of those in the U.S. One of those
slated to begin lab construction in 2014 is the National Bio
and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) planned to be built at
Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. NBAF, which
will have labs approved for BSL- 2, - 3, -3E, -3Ag, and - 4
clearances, is the planned replacement for the aging Plum
Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC, which operates labs
up to level-3Ag) located since 1954 off the northeast coast of Long Island, N. Y.
PIADC was operationally transferred from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to
the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002, following public calls for its closure for a variety of reasons. In 2005, the DHS announced that PIADC would be
replaced with the NBAF. Pre-design awards were made in 2007 for the NBAF and
the 574,000 gsf facility design was completed in July 2012. Several site-specific risk
assessment studies for all biosafety levels for the NBAF were performed by the
National Research Council (NRC) with the DHS stating that all recommendations
identified in the risk assessment were incorporated into the final design.
While not the most expensive labs around (Class 100 GMP production facilities top that list at about $1,000/GSF primarily due to the massive air handling
systems required), BSL- 4 costs start at about $600/GSF and can include some substantial costs for exterior security.
Cost has become the latest concern in creating the NBAF. Initially estimated at about
$650 million, the two laboratory buildings and four outbuildings at the Kansas site are now
estimated to cost about twice the original budget —$1.255 billion. Funds for the NBAF
were included in the recently submitted FY2014 budget proposal by President Obama, but
they require another $202 million in matching funds be invested by the State of Kansas.
Kansas has already invested an initial $105 million for the NBAF and another $35 million
in research funding for transitioning the NBAF from the PIADC. The additional funds
from Kansas are not assured as there is substantial opposition to spending more monies on
a program already several years late in even starting construction.
The NRC study concerning risk assessment for the NBAF included forecasts that
the facility would be expected to have a $3.5 billion economic impact on the state
during the facility’s first 20 years of use.
The study made clear the value of creating a new NBAF for protecting the nation
against known threat agents along with emerging and unknown disease threats
for both human and animal species. The capacity to support critical research and
diagnostic programs for the study of foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases
are directly linked to securing the health and wealth of the nation. But, as with too
many government-sponsored and funded programs, the final costs and schedules
for creating these types of facilities are not even close to the original estimates,
which makes everyone wary of their ultimate cost and value.
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