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N.C. In Running For $450M Agriculture Defense Complex

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A consortium led by the School of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University has made the first cut in a bid to land a $450 million bio- and agriculture-defense complex to be built by the Department of Homeland Security.

The group is a public-private partnership including NCSU, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, Research Triangle Institute and several other entities.

The federal DHS, working with the Department of Agriculture, cut the list of potential sites to 18 from 11 different states. In all, 29 applications were made earlier this year.

"We have a ways to go yet, but we certainly are very encouraged," said Warwick Arden, dean of the NCSU Veterinary School, in an interview with WRAL.com. "It is a very strong consortium."

The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is expected to be worth $450 million, create 250 jobs for research scientists, require 500,000 square feet of office and research space, and cover some 30 acres of land. The purpose of the center is to deal with national security risks posed through biological and agricultural threats. Scientists would be located at a "state-of-the-art bio safety containment facility", according to the DHS.

North Carolina can make a strong case for the facility, Arden said. "When you look at the history of the Research Triangle, building consortia is one of our strengths," he explained. "We also have the medical schools, the veterinary school, the government agencies. We have an awful lot of infrastructure as well, the presence of federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes for Environmental Health. I am very confident as we move forward."

A major point of emphasis will be research into zoonotic (transmitted from animals to humans) threats as well as human diseases. Arden pointed out that NCSU and others are already deeply involved in such research.

The new facility would replace a current complex at Plum Island, N.Y.

The remaining site teams will be asked to submitted more detailed proposals. Those will be reviewed and DHS will select a "small list of final candidates" by the end of this year, DHS said. Finalists will then be required to submit environmental impact studies. A winning location will be picked in early 2008.

The first round of applications were reviewed based on acquisition/construction/operations, research capabilities, workforce, and community acceptance.

The sites making the cuts were:

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (California)
  • Georgia Consortium for Health and Agro-Security 2-sites
  • Heartland BioAgro Consortium (Kansas) 2-sites
  • Kentucky and Tennessee NBAF Consortium (Kentucky)
  • Mid-Atlantic Bio-Ag Defense Consortium (Maryland)
  • Gulf States Bio and Agro-Defense Consortium (Mississippi) 3-sites
  • University of Missouri at Columbia
  • North Carolina State University- College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Brooks Development Authority and Brooks City-Base Foundation (Texas)
  • Texas Research and Technology Foundation
  • Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (Texas)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison site at the Kegonsa Research Facility
  • In submitting its application, Arden touted the consortium's strengths.

    "North Carolina not only meets the criteria established by the government, but the state also possesses unique leadership strengths in the areas of biomedical, plant and animal agricultural enterprises, and premier science and technology parks," he said. "NC State and its consortium partners provide the veterinary expertise, research science, and national and international contacts needed to successfully contribute to such a large project"

    Arden pointed out that NCSU has developed "expertise in homeland security issues through its role in the Agriculture Disaster Research Institute, the Animal Biosecurity Risk Management Group, Food Animal Residue Avoidance Database, the USDA Food Safety Research and Response Network, and other food safety and animal disease research."

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