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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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McVey, D. Scott - Scott
Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit
Center for Grain and Animal Health Research (CGAHR)
1515 College Ave
Manhattan, KS, 66502
Phone: (785) 537-5561
Fax: (785) 537-5560


To solve major endemic, emerging, and exotic arthropod-borne diseases problems in U.S. livestock. Research emphasizes molecular biology of pathogens and vectors, vector biology and competence, epidemiology, and animal pathogenesis. Arboviruses are the major focus of concern because they are especially difficult to control. These include exotic and domestic strains of bluetongue virus (BTV), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), as well as wild type and vaccine strains of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV).

FAQ's About the ABADRU:

What is ABADRU?

  • The Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit (ABADRU), currently located in Manhattan, KS is part of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is the biggest agricultural research organization in the world.  ARS is the principal scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; we're the "USDA scientists."  The ABADRU recently relocated from Laramie, WY to Manhattan, KS.  The ABADRU is funded through a Congressional appropriation to ARS, and its annual budget for FY2010-the fiscal year that began this past October 1-is $4.9 million

What type of research does ABADRU conduct?

  • The ABADRU works on serious livestock diseases that are spread by biting arthropods or insects. Primarily the scientists work on biting midges and mosquitoes that can spread livestock diseases.  We study the molecular biology of these diseases and the insects that spread them; the epidemiology of these diseases, and how the disease affects the animals.  This is all in an effort to develop better detection, control, and prevention methods.  Diseases of particular interest include bluetongue virus, vesicular stomatitis virus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus, and Rift Valley fever virus.   This research is important to protect US livestock, which are key food sources for our nation and the world.

Why did the ABADRU move to Manhattan, Kansas?

  • The research laboratory in Laramie had reached the point that major infrastructure investments would have to be made to ensure that the Laramie facility was suitable for conducting the types of research we needed to do.  ARS is a very large organization with more than 100 research locations nationwide, so it is more cost-effective-for the federal government, and therefore for the taxpayer - to relocate this research program to one of our other existing laboratories.  Manhattan was especially appropriate because Kansas State has just built a new state-of-the-art biocontainment laboratory where our scientists can work collaboratively with KSU researchers.

What does ARS do?

  • ARS specifically conducts the type of high-risk, long-term research that is not likely to be undertaken by industry.  This research is important to ensure that our country has high-quality, safe agricultural products, that we sustain a competitive agricultural economy, and that we support and sustain rural citizens and communities, such as those that are economically reliant on agriculture.

Is there other ARS research going on in Manhattan?

  • This Research Unit  moved into our existing ARS laboratory in Manhattan-the ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research (CGAHR), formerly the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (GMPRC), located at 1515 College Avenue.  That center already has four research units: the Engineering and Wind Erosion Research Unit; the Grain Quality and Structure Research Unit; the Plant Science and Entomology Research Unit; and the Stored Product Insect Research Unit.  The center director is Dr. Tom Shanower, and there are about 100 ARS employees based there now.  ABADRU employees are based at the ARS laboratory on College Avenue, and they will soon be making use of KSU's new biocontainment facility on the KSU campus.

How many people work in ABADRU?

  • Fully staffed, the ABADRU has 25-30 employees, including a secretary, support technicians and 7 scientists.  Professions include entomology, microbiology, and veterinary science.  Several employees chose not to relocate from Laramie to Manhattan; therefore, considerable efforts to bring the ABADRU to full operational staffing are underway.

Did the move to Kansas impact ABADRU's work?

  • The work that we do is conducted primarily in the laboratory, so the fact that Kansas is very different from Wyoming doesn't impact adversely on our work.  We plan to carry out the same type of research-working on livestock diseases that are spread by biting midges and mosquitoes-that we have been doing in Wyoming.  The relocation itself has impacted the work able to be accomplished this past fiscal year due to the necessary shut down of the Laramie labs, the ramp up of the Manhattan labs, and the extraordinary amount of effort the move has taken from all the staff.

What threats does this work pose?

  • The work that we do doesn't pose any threat to the public or to local livestock, wildlife or domestic animals.  That's the beauty of working in a modern high-containment laboratory such as KSU has just built: what's inside the building stays inside the building.  There's absolutely no danger to the community from the work that we do.

Are there any advantages for Manhattan in moving ABADRU?

  • Obviously, bringing new people into the Manhattan community has, and will continue to infuse new dollars to the local economy, valued at approximately $2 million. As time goes by, job openings could run the gamut from scientific positions to administrative and infrastructure maintenance jobs.

How long did the move to Manhattan take?

  • The relocation from Laramie to Manhattan took the entire fiscal year of 2010.

Were other sites considered in the decision to move ABADRU?

  • Other locations in the United States were considered as a "new home" for ABADRU, including our new USDA National Centers for Animal Health at Ames, Iowa.  But Congress decided that Manhattan would be the best site for the ABADRU.  KSU's new biocontainment facility played a key role in making Manhattan an ideal spot for the ABADRU's new home; it's a wonderful, state-of-the-art facility, and we're excited about the synergy that we expect to emerge from our ongoing and new collaborations with the KSU scientists.  We'll also continue our very productive research collaborations with our longtime research partners such as those at University of Wyoming, Colorado State University and several international institutions.

Is ABADRU connected to the new DHS laboratory that will be built in Manhattan?

  • The ABADRU is not connected with the Department of Homeland Security's proposed National Agro- and Biodefense Facility ("NBAF"), which DHS has said would be built here in Manhattan.  ARS does have a connection with NBAF in that the ABADRU is collaborating with DHS and once the new DHS facility is built, our ARS Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit, now at Plum Island, NY, will move to NBAF, thus increasing the level of additional collaborations available to the ABADRU scientists.

How is this move paid for?

  • This move is funded, as we mentioned before, by an appropriation from Congress.  In fact, that's how ARS is funded; we get base funding of about $1.1 billion a year from Congress.  This move, and the operation of the ABADRU in Manhattan, won't incur any cost for either the city of Manhattan or the state of Kansas.

Will ABADRU scientists use any Kansas State University facilities?

  • ARS is excited about the opportunity for our ABADRU scientists to collaborate more closely with the Kansas State researchers.  The wonderful new biocontainment facility will make it possible for us to do research that we haven't been able to do for quite a few years at the aging facility in Laramie.  And we're really looking forward to expanding our collaboration with the KSU scientists.

What are some of the advantages of moving ABADRU to Kansas?

  • The benefits of moving this Research Unit to Manhattan are that we will be able to address disease problems of great importance to American livestock that we weren't been able to work on at Laramie for quite some time because of the structural issues at our facilities there.  We'll benefit from increased collaboration with KSU scientists, and that will ultimately benefit all Americans by helping keep our U.S. livestock herds healthy and productive-which contributes significantly to a safe, reliable and economical food supply for all of us.


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Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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