Panel looks at lab to replace Plum Island

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- A science group's government-backed committee issued a report Friday saying the United States would have adequate biosecurity protections even if plans for a proposed $1.14-billion lab in Kansas are scaled back.

The National Research Council study was prepared by a subcommittee that looked at three options for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility that is to be built near Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

One option was to keep the research lab at Plum Island, off Long Island's East End, but that was rejected by the committee.

The Department of Homeland Security asked the council, a private nonprofit institution, to review the threats of foreign animal disease, the capabilities needed to address such threats, and analyze options for building the lab as proposed or scaling back the size and scope. Though the panel found that the need for a lab hadn't changed since the project was first proposed in 2006, it did find that DHS had two options for completing the goal of developing the capabilities with a laboratory designed specifically to respond to a biosecurity threat. However, the report concluded that both options had drawbacks.

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"We really did not rank any of the options that we were given," said Terry McElwain, committee chairman.

The first option would be to continue designing and building the lab in Kansas, which would give the United States a large-animal lab with so-called Level 4 security to handle such deadly diseases as foot and mouth.

The second option would be to scale back the size of the project and disburse research of diseases across the country.

A third option, which would leave current research at Plum Island and rely on foreign labs to conduct research and deter threats, was rejected.

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