BRI: A work in progress

by Bryan Salvage
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The 113,000-sq.-ft. Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Kansas State Univ. is equipped to ensure the safety of employees and the surrounding community during the myriad of research conducted at the facility since its opening about five years ago.

University officials received the keys to the building in 2006 from the contractors, but there was much to do in finishing some building systems, hiring and staffi ng, developing operational programs, training people, etc., says Randall Phebus, Ph.D., Professor of Food Safety & Defense at KSU and a scientific principal investigator (PI) at the BRI.

His group initiated the fi rst BRI studies in 2008 working with BSL-2 grade agents that required only a smaller confined research laboratory. Some of the first larger-scale research in the BRI was initiated with non-select agents (plant and animal pathogens) in 2009.

“In early 2010, we undertook the rigorous and lengthy process of building and program certification by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for work with select agents, which we were granted,” he adds. “These projects are now under way. Additional research areas of the BRI are scheduled for certification over the next few months. So, it’s been a sequential and progressive progress.”

BRI features
Microbiology labs are officially designated as biosafety levels (BSL) 1-4 according to criteria established by the CDC. Most labs that work with more commonly known bacteria and viruses, such as Salmonella, HIV and Listeria, are rated BSL-2. BSL-3 is a lab classification identifying where work occurs with indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal diseases, especially through inhalation.

Specialized building and lab features are in place to minimize risk to personnel, and significant training and operational protocols are used. The BRI supports comprehensive “farm-to-fork” infectious disease research programs that address threats to plant, animal and human health. It is a biosafety level (BSL)-3/BSL-3Ag facility that provides for the large-scale integrated study of animal, plant and human pathogens that are food, water, animal or environmentally associated.

“Moreover, the facility supports research investigations that can portray ‘real life’ scenarios whereby food animals, food products and/or the environment are contaminated, managed, treated and/or processed systematically to mimic commercial production, processing and consumption of food products – farm to fork,” Phebus says.

BRI education and training staff are dedicated to developing novel education programs to educate food safety professionals. These will include E-learning training modules. The BRI can also conduct research on all food animal species and further processed products whenever there are important food quality, safety or defense questions to be answered. The abattoir is set up to accommodate harvest of all three primary protein species. It includes all of the standard meat processing equipment currently used in the industry available in the processing room.

For more information, visit www.bri.k-state.edu.
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