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Biosecurity Research Institute

BRI Research Projects

The BRI is dedicated to facilitating improvement in the understanding and development of diagnostics and vaccines that can better prepare the U.S. to detect and respond to foreign pathogens that threaten agriculture and public health. A number of the research projects currently in progress will transition to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) which is being constructed adjacent to the BRI. Research highlights reported in 2016 include:

  • Dr. Kenneth Burton, and the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC) team, worked to identify potential routes by which foreign animal disease could enter the United States and also received over $330,000 to develop a Department of Homeland Security National Livestock Readiness Program. The NABC relocated to the BRI in 2016.

  • Dr. Barbara Drolet's group conducts research to determine the disease threat of exotic Bluetongue virus serotype 8 from Northern Europe to sheep breeds of North America. Her team is also investigating vector-enhanced transmission mechanisms which facilitate vector-host virus transmission and enhance pathogenesis. Results were published in Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases and Veterinaria Italiana.

  • Dr. Steven Eckels and Dr. Sorensen's research team is working on advancing the science and engineering behind building isolation systems for Biosecurity Buildings such as the BRI. The team has been studying the science of detecting micron-sized holes in the HEPA filtration systems. Research includes documenting the accuracy of state-of-the-art autoscan systems being used in the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility. The team is also developing cost effective real-time particulate detectors to inform building operators of rapidly changing building performance.

  • Dr. Scott McVey and the Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Unit established a newly funded research program in Predictive Biology that will focus on mosquito-transmitted flaviviruses that threaten both human and livestock populations in North America. Papers describing hypothetical transmission networks and identifying points of risk of disease emergence have been published.

  • Dr. Randall Phebus’ food safety team validated the effectiveness of commonly used food-grade antimicrobial washes to control Shiga toxin-producing E. coli on fresh beef products when applied in series at the carcass to final wholesale product levels. This validation data will be useful for small to large commercial beef processors to support their food safety regulatory compliance programs.

  • Dr. Juergen Richt’s unit has undertaken challenge studies toward development of a vaccine for ASFV. In collaboration with researchers at ISU and CBMSO in Madrid, Spain, multiple antigens of ASFV were expressed in baculovirus, E. coli and mammalian systems and their immunogenicity in pigs was evaluated. The CEEZAD team completed important foundational work for studies on a human vaccine to protect against the Ebola virus. Animal work in the BRI involved performing a study in pigs to compare field strains of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) in order to select the most virulent strain to use in 2017 studies that will compare the infectivity/safety of the VSV-vectored ebola vaccine in pigs, cattle and horses. CEEZAD researchers also successfully demonstrated the efficacy and safety of a recombinant Newcastle disease virus-vectored Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) vaccine in poultry. The vaccine, for possible use in future HPAI outbreaks like the one that caused a significant problem in the U.S. in 2015, provides excellent, broad virus-type protection in live and inactivated vaccine forms, and via practical mass application.

  • Dr. Bob Rowland’s group has received an award from the AAVLD for the best manuscript published in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. A high impact article on African swine fever virus (ASFV) was published in the journal, Virology, in November, “Genetically edited pigs lacking CD163 show no resistance following infection with the African swine fever virus isolate, Georgia 2007/1.”

  • Dr. Jishu Shi is developing a novel vaccine (KNB-E2) that can differentiate pigs infected with classical swine fever virus from those that are vaccinated with KNB-E2. Several unique adjuvants that can be used to formulate vaccines to prevent high consequence animal diseases have also been developed.

  • Dr. James Stack, Dr. Barbara Valent and the Plant Pathology team continued with their high priority work on Wheat Blast fungal disease; the longest continuously running project at the BRI. The introduction of Wheat blast into Bangladesh during 2016; the first time that the fungus has occurred outside of South America, emphasizes the threat that this pathogen poses to crop production and the importance of the work at the BRI.

  • Dr. Dana Vanlandingham’s group conducted the first studies with Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) at the BRI that demonstrated the ability of North American mosquitoes to transmit the virus. They also studied JEV in swine. These are the first such studies to be conducted in the US since the 1940’s. The group’s studies on Zika virus in mosquitoes were published in Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases. Results from a collaborative project were published in Science and Nature Medicine.

  • Dr. William C. Wilson, the Arthopod-Borne Animal Diseases Unit and Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases collaborators have developed a multi-disciplinary research team focused on the mosquito-transmitted Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV). Endemic and epizootic in Sub-Saharan Africa, RVFV is causing high rates of abortions and mortality in young cattle, sheep and goats. Not only does this affect food security but the virus is zoonotic and can be lethal or lead to permanent blindness in humans. The team has developed a sub-unit vaccine and companion diagnostic tools for a differentiating infected from vaccinate animals (DIVA) control strategy. The fundamental research conducted in mice, cattle and sheep has led to new areas of research to understand insect-transmission effect on RVFV pathogenesis at a molecular mechanistic level.