Ohio State University to build agricultural lab

by Bryan Salvage
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COLUMBUS, OHIO — Construction of a new biosafety facility on the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (O.A.R.D.C.) was approved by The Ohio State University Board of Trustees during its April 3 meeting. O.A.R.D.C., the research arm of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, will use the secure bio-containment laboratory to enhance its nationally and internationally recognized research programs on infectious diseases of plants and animals.

Officials say the facility will contribute to the viability of Ohio's $90-plus billion agricultural sector. "This facility will allow our researchers to compete for new federal grants and will enable us to continue to meet industry and state expectations, providing proactive solutions to impending disease problems facing our plant and animal industries rather than being reactive once the problems occur," said Steve Slack, director, O.A.R.DC.

In addition to three biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) labs, the Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research (P.A.A.R.) Facility will include two BSL-3 Ag isolation rooms, which are needed to work with large animals, such as cows and pigs. P.A.A.R. will be the only facility in Ohio and one of only five nationally with the capacity for both plant and animal research at these high safety levels, according to the university.

P.A.A.R. has a projected construction cost of $21.7 million. Funding for the facility comes from state of Ohio capital funds, O.A.R.D.C. funds and federal grants. Construction is expected to begin in September 2009.

Ohio State operates several BSL-3 labs on its Columbus campus, but this is the first to be built on the Wooster campus.

The P.A.A.R. facility is expected to significantly boost research on a number of disease organisms and pests capable of causing billions of dollars in losses to crops, trees and livestock. This includes avian influenza, which threatens the state's $93 million turkey industry.

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