Kansas site to replace Plum Island advances

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- Department of Homeland Security officials have signed a land transfer agreement that allows for the construction of a new federal animal research lab near Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Gov. Sam Brownback and members of the state's congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the move indicated the federal department is committed to building the $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility.

The lab would replace the aging facility at Plum Island, where research would be conducted on deadly animal pathogens, including foot and mouth disease.

Kansas was selected for the animal research lab after a lengthy competition in 2009. DHS will acquire about 46 acres of land for the lab.

"While there is much more work to be done, signing of the land transfer agreement is a good step forward in securing the future health, wealth and security of the our nation," Brownback said in a statement. "Kansas stands ready to partner with DHS to move this important national security priority forward."

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said damage inflicted on Plum Island by superstorm Sandy was another reason DHS needed to move quickly to replace those research capabilities.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he spoke recently with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who indicated that construction on the initial phases of lab shouldn't face further delays.

The lab is expected to begin vaccine trials in 2020.-- AP

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