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Agricultural diseases lab approved

The Ohio State University Board of Trustees has approved the construction of a new biosafety facility on the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre (OARDC).

OARDC, 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 recognised research programmes on infectious diseases of plants and animals.

"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 OARDC director Steve Slack.

In addition to 3 biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) labs, the Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research (PAAR) Facility will include two BSL-3 Ag isolation rooms, which are needed to work with larger animals such as cows and pigs. PAAR will be the only facility in Ohio and one of only 5 nationally with the capacity for both plant and animal research at these high safety levels.

The PAAR 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. These include avian influenza, which threatens the state's $93 mln turkey industry, said the university.

Animal-borne diseases such as avian influenza can sicken humans as well, so the research conducted by OARDC scientists at PAAR is also expected to contribute to advancements in public health. However, no human studies will be conducted at this facility.

Slack said the laboratory will allow Ohio to be proactive in the development of new diagnostic tools, treatments, vaccines or genetically resistant animals and plants to reduce economic losses from diseases and pests.
PAAR has a projected construction cost of $21.7 mln. Funding for the facility comes from state of Ohio capital funds, OARDC funds and federal grants.

Construction is expected to begin in September 2009.

Related links:

Ohio State University

Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre (OARDC)

Natalie Berkhout

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