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Research Project: The Agrosecurity Partnerships for Innovative Research (ASPIRE) Project for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF)

Location: Research Programs

2021 Annual Report

The Agrosecurity Partnerships for Innovative Research (ASPIRE) Program provides the framework by which NBAF will enhance America’s agricultural biosecurity by forming strategic partnerships to support the NBAF Strategic Plan and National Biodefense Strategy. This includes facilitating regional, national, and international collaborations, performing research gap analyses and capability assessments, creation of research and response networks, spurring innovation and enhancing participation of underrepresented populations within the animal-health scientific enterprise.

The goal of National Program 103, Animal Health, is to protect and ensure the safety of the Nation’s agriculture and food supply through improved disease detection, prevention, and control. Basic and applied research approaches will be applied to solve animal health problems of high national priority. The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) will take over the mission of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) and be the ARS lead facility for Foreign Animal Disease research. NBAF will 1) provide solutions to problems associated with the control, eradication, and recovery of foreign and emerging diseases, and 2) maintain a portfolio of expertise that will allow ARS to rapidly respond to new and unforeseen disease threats. The research addresses the following research components in the 2022-2027 Animal Health National Program (NP 103) Action Plan: 1) Component 1: Biodefense, Problem Statement 1A, Control and eradicate foreign animal diseases and Problem Statement 1B: Predict and prevent emerging diseases. Further, the research addresses ARS Strategic Plan Goal 4.3 to protect and ensure the safety of the nation’s agriculture and food supply through improved disease detection, prevention, and control.

Progress Report
The U.S. Federal and University Biocontainment Facilities Network was officially launched with a 1.5-day inaugural workshop, held virtually on May 5-6, 2021. Representatives from 16 member institutions across 10 states participated in the workshop, representing 6 academic and 10 federal entities. Membership is inclusive of institutions with mission interests spanning livestock, wildlife, and public health with Biosafety Level 2, 3, 3 agriculture, 4 biocontainment capacity. The working groups were launched the week of June 21-25, 2021 and will meet monthly. There is an ongoing monthly scientific seminar to showcase cutting-edge science, seek collaborations and share challenges/seek guidance. Two additional network members were added in Fiscal Year 2021. On April 26th-30th, 2021 ARS hosted a virtual scientific symposium, which covered topics such as disease pathogenesis, next generation vaccine and diagnostics, epidemiology, and emergency response research. The symposium highlighted the science and partnerships that ARS will conduct when operational. The first Mitigating Zoonotic Disease Threats Scialog is scheduled for September 30th-October 2nd, 2021. This collaborative effort between USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, ARS and the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement will bring together 50 early career academic and federal scientists, as well as 10 renowned facilitators to discuss and develop research proposals surrounding mitigating zoonotic threats. The Scialog will meet each year for 3 years to solidify the development of collaborative networks between the interdisciplinary scientists. Six ARS fellows were selected through a rigorous selection process in Fiscal Year 2021 to participate in the Scialog. ARS researchers are contributing with the international Biosafety Level 4 (BSL4) Zoonotic Laboratory Network, an international collaborative network of high containment laboratories working together to protect human health, animal health and agriculture resources. The Network mission is to establish and sustain BSL4 trusted partnerships to strengthen coordination, improve knowledge sharing and leverage integrated capacity for diagnostics, research, and training to meet global threats. ARS researchers are part of the working groups, which meet quarterly or as needed. These working groups are: Training; Scientific Excellence; International Response and Institutional Collaboration.

1. National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) Scientific Symposium. The NBAF Scientific Symposium was hosted by ARS in Manhattan, Kansas, virtually on April 26th-30th, 2021. The symposium was attended by over one thousand people from 39 different countries and 48 U.S. States. The NBAF Scientific Symposium brought together scientists and thought leaders from across the world in federal and academic labs to talk about the types of research needed in biocontainment laboratories for the study of diseases that threaten both America’s animal agricultural industry and public health.