University of Kentucky opens new animal health lab

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — In 2008, the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory broke ground on a $28.5 million expansion and renovation journey. Now the state-of-the-art project is complete and the lab is open to serve Kentucky’s animal agriculture industries.

Busy lab

“This new facility finally puts us in a position where we can take our diagnostic testing services to the next level for Kentucky animal agriculture,” said Craig Carter, director of the lab.

The lab is a full-service animal health diagnostic facility. Its faculty and staff handle one of the largest caseloads in the nation, seeing 60,000 clinical cases and performing an average of 4,000 necropsies each year.

The laboratory also protects public health by diagnosing many zoonotic diseases that can potentially infect people.

Plenty of room

Prior to the renovations, the lab had one of the smallest necropsy floors in the United States. Now, at 3,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest.

“The expansion of the work space was a critical need for all operations, particularly for replacing the cramped necropsy space, and also for maintaining biosecurity for infectious agents,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

The facilities also have allowed more opportunities for collaboration with fellow state agencies and veterinary stakeholders, Cox said.

Improvements to the facility include the addition of wings for necropsy laboratories and administration, which freed up much of the existing building to increase overall laboratory space.

These expansions nearly doubled the size of the previous 38,000-square-foot facility.

One-of-a-kind

The center switched to alkaline digestion as its main form of tissue disposal, which is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than other methods.

Officials said the facility is the only lab in the world with two 10,000-pound digesters, which operate at only a quarter of the cost of incinerators.

These and other technological improvements allow the facility to meet current biosafety requirements.

The university received $8.5 million for the project from the 2005 state legislative session and an additional $20 million from the 2008 legislature.

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