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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

2023 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
Objective 1: Cooperators at Texas Tech University (TTU) performed mosquito population surveillance and arbovirus testing for St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), Western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV), and West Nile virus (WNV) during Fiscal Year 2023. A total of 15,729 mosquitoes were collected. Tick collection efforts were also initiated in February 2023 with the aim of testing ticks collected from wild ruminants for various pathogens that may threaten domestic livestock and public health. Additionally, TTU collaborators established the Western Texas Regional Sequencing Data and Sample Repository for Arthropod-borne, Zoonotic and Other Infectious Diseases to collect, analyze and archive biological samples and data associated with suspected emerging and confirmed outbreaks of infectious diseases threatening public health. Collaborations between USDA ARS, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), in Manhattan, Kansas, the ARS National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa, and the ScienceBound program at Iowa State University (ISU) continued in FY 2023. The NBAF attending veterinarian and ARS biosafety officer provided virtual talks to ScienceBound students about career paths that facilitate high-containment laboratory research. Additionally, four ScienceBound students participated in summer programs shadowing professionals at the NADC. Finally, the Center Director from the NADC participated with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to speak to 20 ScienceBound Students at ISU. Collaborations between USDA ARS, APHIS, and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) continued in FY 2023. The 3-year program effort named Scialog, which culminate September 7th-10th, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. In FY 2023, the 2nd year of the program, seven multidisciplinary teams of early career scientists received funding to support their research proposals to address emerging diseases threats. The 18 individual awards of $50,000 each in direct costs will go to 16 researchers from a variety of institutions, including two USDA agencies working together at NBAF-APHIS and NBAF-ARS. The funded projects include five new partnerships among USDA and academic scientists.

1. Creation of new research spotlight workshop. USDA-ARS National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), in Manhattan, Kansas, and Texas Tech University (TTU), held the first Collaborative Research Spotlight Workshop in a newly formed annual series. This two-day event developed to explore new areas of collaboration between the two institutions, included research presentations from USDA and TTU and a brainstorming session. Topics covered during the workshop included Genetics and Crop Management, Animal and Veterinary Science including High Containment Labs, Fiber Production and Use, Food Safety, and Soil and Water Management. This collaboration will directly benefit the NBAF and will contribute to the development of a strong partnership with TTU to address critical research areas in animal diseases.