Our mission, “Leading through research and education to protect agriculture and the public from biological threats,” is epitomized by the multidisciplinary research and related training activities being conducted at the BRI on high-consequence pathogens that infect livestock, plants, and people, or can contaminate food products. We are one of fewer than six high containment facilities in the United States that can conduct research on livestock experimentally infected with a broad range of highly pathogenic organisms. The BRI is unique in its capacity to perform multidisciplinary research on multiple pathogens and host species within a single facility. As the designated facility at Kansas State University for work on organisms classified by the U.S Government as Select Agents (SAs), our highly specialized facilities and highly trained and approved personnel ensure constant accountability, safety and security.
Our research. The BRI is the first non-Federal facility to be approved to conduct research on the tick-borne select agent African swine fever virus (ASFV). Recent acquisitions of ASFV and classical swine fever virus (CSFV), have enabled research that has led to testing of promising new vaccines for CSF and innovative molecular genetic studies to improve our understanding of ASF in swine. Experiments with Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) in livestock is the first such work in the US for over 20 years. A USDA-funded US-UK collaboration is studying genetically engineered vaccine candidates of mosquito-borne RVFV, Cache Valley, Schmallenberg, Akabani and Kairi viruses. Other Select Agents that have been studied at the BRI include highly pathogenic avian influenza, anthrax, glanders, plague, and brucellosis.
Arthropod-borne viruses studied at the BRI include: Zika (ZIKV), bluetongue, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis (JEV), RVFV, and yellow fever (YFV). Recent mosquito experiments with JEV, a priority pathogen for study at the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF), are the first such studies to be conducted in the U.S. since the 1940s. This virus is closely related to West Nile virus (WNV) that has probably infected over 2M people with over 1,900 deaths since 1999. Our experiments with JEV demonstrated susceptibility of North American mosquitoes that could be effective vectors in the event this virus is introduced into the United States. Research with the ZIKV (over 4,000 people in the U.S. have been infected), investigated mosquito transmission, and also supported collaborative studies to evaluate new vaccines for Zika.
Ongoing USDA-funded research includes large-scale studies on highly pathogenic Shiga toxin expressing Escherichia coli. Previous projects have included Department of Defense-funded research to develop detection and identification technologies for organisms such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Yersinia pestis (plague), that could be deliberately introduced into the food system, posing great risks to the public and our military. The primary purpose of research in the food wing is to improve the understanding of risks associated with the food system, and to develop diagnostics and manufacturing processes that can better detect, quantify and neutralize pathogenic food contaminants that threaten agriculture and public health.
Wheat blast is caused by the plant pathogenic fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae. Yield loss to this disease can be greater than 75% in severely affected fields. Research with live pathogen cultures and with infected plant tissues are conducted within biosafety level 3 biocontainment laboratories at the Biosecurity Research Institute and at the USDA ARS laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Our people. The BRI provides a unique opportunity for collaborative research involving Kansas State University researchers and scientists from other academic, federal, and private research institutions. Researchers at the BRI include scientists from multiple departments in several colleges at Kansas State University; including Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology and Anatomy/Physiology (College of Veterinary Medicine), Plant Pathology and Animal Sciences (College of Agriculture), and Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (College of Engineering). The BRI also supports research and training for the Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases, and the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service’s Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit. Dedicated to increasing public awareness of agro-terrorism and developing solutions for improving agricultural and food production safeguards, the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center is located at the BRI.
Our building. The BRI is a state-of-the-art enhanced BSL-3 and BSL-3Ag research facility. This advanced facility is comprised of an ACL/BSL-3 insectary suite (3 rooms at BSL-3E) available for arthropod transmission studies, a mosquito rearing room, 14 BSL-3/3Ag research laboratories, including 5 rooms to enable research on livestock, an ABSL-3 vivarium small animal area, and a pathogen storage room (BSL-3E). Within the BRI, two core facilities in Molecular Virology and Applied Immunology support education and research. The facilities are available for use by scientists working within our multidisciplinary focus areas. Read more about BRI research spaces.
Areas of emphasis include:
- Basic biology of pathogens of animals, humans, or plants
- Diagnostic technology development for rapid and accurate disease detection
- Vaccine development, testing, and validation
- Detection of pathogens in food — pre- and post-harvest
- Food safety and security in food processing
- Contamination control — mitigation and decontamination
- Disease transmission between hosts and vectors
If you are interested in conducting research at the BRI, contact the Director.