WOOSTER, Ohio — When Ohio State University completes its state-of-the-art plant and animal agrosecurity research facility in 2012, it will be a timely investment for Ohio, and the nation.
The $22 million facility is being built to advance the research of infectious disease in plants and animals — at a time when researchers say such diseases cost the country billions each year, in medical bills, time off from work and an overall decrease in the quality of life.
It will be located on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, in Wooster, the first of its kind to this campus.
“We are getting a new infectious disease just about every year,” said Mo Saif, who heads OARDC’s Food Animal Health Research Program. “That in itself could be very dangerous.”
Perhaps the biggest feature of the new facility is security. Very few will be admitted, and those who enter will need to obtain proper certification.
Saif said researchers are facing an increased need for biosecurity in their research, which the lock-down nature of this building will help provide. The facility will house both live and dead research animals, with three enhanced laboratories and three animal isolation rooms, large enough to handle cows and pigs.
Other space will include offices, lockers and a change facility — decomposition areas, wash areas for cleaning cages and a necropsy area for sample collection.
The general contractor is Bogner Construction Co., of Wooster, and construction will be airtight. Outgoing air will be filtered through high efficiency particle air filters that contain “trap microorganisms” and prevent escape into other parts of the facility, or the outside environment.
“We don’t have anything close to that at all,” Saif confirmed. “Any animal that goes in, doesn’t come out.”
No human studies will be conducted. However, the research is expected to improve public health, due to the connections between humans, plants and animals.
Specific focuses will include emerald ash borer — an invasive insect projected to cause $3 billion in economic loss to Ohio communities over the next decade; soybean rust — a devastating disease that could jeopardize Ohio’s $1 billion a year soybean industry; and avian influenza — which threatens the state’s $93 million turkey industry.
The building will be run by OARDC veterinarian Juliette Hanson, who will serve as director of operations.
“It’s going to be a really good opportunity for continuing the research that already is important for the facility here,” said Hanson, who has become very familiar with OARDC and its work over the past 10 years.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in early April, with OSU President Gordon Gee casting his support.
“This project exemplifies how partnerships between the university, businesses and our legislators will help move Ohio to a ‘thought-ware’ economy, where we no longer build buildings, but ideas,” Gee said during the ceremony.
Steve Slack, OARDC director, said its an investment that will help researchers find solutions to invasive disease.
“We are very pleased to see the initiation of this project, which will enable Ohio to aggressively and proactively pursue solutions to invasive disease problems that will impact our agricultural and natural resource systems,” he said. “Historically, it has been a vexing dilemma to watch problems developing and reaching our doorstep before we can respond. This facility will dramatically change that posture.”