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The new high-containment animal facility
The new high-containment animal facility at Ames, Iowa. Photo courtesy James Fosse, ARS.

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New USDA Animal Research Facility Dedicated

By Laura McGinnis
July 3, 2007

AMES, Iowa, July 3—Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and members of Iowa's Congressional delegation helped dedicate a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-containment large animal facility here today that combines several research facilities into one location. The new building is the second component of a multi-phase, $460 million project.

"Construction of this state-of-the-art animal health center is an important milestone in USDA's efforts to provide first-class animal health services," said Johanns. "The work here has generated tremendous benefits for livestock, agricultural workers and consumers."

The "high-containment" designation means the building is designed for optimal safety and security because the scientists will work with a variety of endemic, zoonotic and foreign animal diseases in what is called Biological Safety Level 3 (BSL3) space. This includes features such as airtight walls, filtered air and liquid waste treatment technology. Construction lasted three-and-a-half years and cost approximately $85 million.

The new building contains more than 155,000 square feet and will house cattle, bison, elk, deer, reindeer, sheep and hogs. It includes designated areas for research by scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as well as for diagnostics-testing training and biologic product evaluation by employees of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Employees in the new facility will contribute to the nation's $100 billion livestock industry by conducting research, diagnostics and training, as well as testing vaccines and evaluating veterinary biological products.

The center consolidates three units within the two USDA agencies:

  • ARS' National Animal Disease Center, which conducts research concerning animal health and diseases with an agricultural impact;
  • APHIS' National Veterinary Services Laboratories, which serves as a national and international reference laboratory and provides diagnostic services, reagents and training; and
  • APHIS' Center for Veterinary Biologics, which regulates vaccines, bacterins, antisera, diagnostic kits and other biological products for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of animal diseases.

A consolidated lab and a low-containment animal facility are still under construction. By 2009, when the project is expected to conclude, the Ames complex will be one of the largest animal health centers in the world. It will have about one million square feet of laboratory and research facilities, including the BSL3 space.

ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency. APHIS is the department's primary agency for responding to animal and plant diseases, as well as pest threats.