1. K-State home
  2. »BRI
  3. »Research Programs
  4. »Research Highlights

Biosecurity Research Institute

Protecting U.S. agriculture and public health 

BRI-affiliated researchers are making great strides to help the U.S. detect and respond to foreign pathogens that threaten agriculture and public health. A number of the research projects currently in progress may transition to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), which is being constructed adjacent to the BRI.

Recent highlights include the following. 

wheatBarbara Valent and Jim Stack's plant pathology team is continuing its work on the fungal disease wheat blast. The project has been based at the BRI since 2009. They are also beginning work on Raythayibacter toxicus, a bacterium transmitted by parasites to certain grasses. In 2019, Dr. Valent and Dr. Stack made substantial progress on three fronts in their wheat blast program. Read more...

Giovana Cruppe completed her Ph.D. research at BRI investigating and identifying potential new sources of genetic resistance to the wheat blast pathogen from wild wheat relatives. Javier Kiyuna completed his M.S. degree research at BRI determining the limits of detection for the wheat blast pathogen in infected seed lots as a function of PCR sensitivity and seed sampling methods. They will both continue working with the wheat blast team; Giovana as a research assistant professor at K-State and Javier as a field research coordinator in Bolivia. On the third front, our genomics team published a high-profile paper in the journal PLoS Genetics that describes a novel mechanism of genome variability in the wheat blast fungus. That is, dynamic crosstalk between the ends of fungal core chromosomes and dispensable supernumerary mini-chromosomes contributes to the pathogen’s genome plasticity and ability to evade disease control strategies in the field.

Learn more about Barbara Valent and Jim Stack


syringeJishu Shi's group is developing countermeasures to control three high consequence infectious diseases of pigs. African swine fever (ASF) research entails developing novel vaccines and also a diagnostic assay that can differentiate pigs infected with wild type virus from those vaccinated with experimental vaccine. Read more...

Antiviral reagents that can be used to inactivate ASF virus are also being evaluated. Classical swine fever (CSF) research includes developing and validating a unique method of differentiating between vaccinated and infected pigs. A novel vaccine platform that will induce high level anti-CSFV immunity in pigs is under development. Lastly, the team is developing and testing novel vaccines for high pathogenic porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

Learn more about Jishu Shi.


mosquitoDana Vanlandingham's team demonstrated that North American swine are highly susceptible to Japanese encephalitis virus and that North American mosquitoes can transmit the virus. A USDA-supported study in sheep evaluated a novel Rift Valley fever virus vaccine (provided by collaborators in the United Kingdom). Also, SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot infect and be transmitted by three important species of mosquitoes. Read more...

Her group has also been involved in evaluating Zika virus vaccine candidates, with one DNA vaccine candidate in clinical trials. Six peer-reviewed articles describing recent studies have been published. Productive collaborations have continued with other academic and industry partners on equine encephalitis viruses and inactivation of West Nile virus in blood components.

Learn more about Dana Vanlandingham.


germJuergen Richt’s team from the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) and the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (CEZID) had recent research demonstrate that cats can be infected and shed SARS-CoV-2 but do not develop disease, and USDA-ARS scientists at the Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit are confirming the effectiveness of a Rift Valley fever (RVF) vaccine for sheep and cattle and susceptibility of white-tailed deer to infection by the virus. Read more...

 An efficacy trial conducted in 2018 in mice for the RVFV vaccine is now approved by USDA-CVB. This represents a major milestone toward licensing the vaccine. Multiple studies have been conducted in swine to evaluate various subunit and modified live virus vaccine candidates for African Swine Fever (ASF). Point of Need (PON) portable PCR devices for ASFV and RVFV and for an ASF antigen lateral flow test are being validated. Several studies have been conducted to evaluate an antiviral compound against influenza viruses in a chicken influenza model. Fifteen peer-reviewed manuscripts were published in 2019 describing research on ASFV, RVFV, animal influenza viruses, Schmallenberg virus and Vesicular Stomatitis virus.

Learn more about Juergen Richt.


globeThe National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC) team published two critical papers analyzing swine movement amongst farms by which mitigation and planning strategies against the spread of African swine fever virus can be enhanced. This work is particularly timely as the global spread of ASF has become very prominent in the news. Read more...
  • The National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC) contributes to and accesses a vast network of interdisciplinary research and resources in areas such as animal diseases, foodborne pathogens, plant infectious agents, emergency management, and environmental systems changes impacting agriculture, food, and One Health. NABC is dedicated to increasing public awareness of agro-terrorism and developing solutions for improving agricultural and food production safeguards utilizing systems process analysis and risk assessments. 
  • The NABC team has flexed to support campus wide COVID response and recovery activities. This effort has helped guide the formation of a standing Incident Management Team (IMT) to examine solution scenarios for various issues impacting campus. NABC provided logistics for the campus wide effort at bidirectional procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both the State of Kansas as well as K-State. NABC performed a virtual table top exercise with a broad variety of campus elements to dialogue through a predetermine hypothetical set to begin the fall semester and campus reopening. Longer term with these efforts, NABC will provide capabilities for an institutional recovery team to analyze methods and topics to build a resilient systems architecture for the university’s future. 
  • NABC continues to work on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded “Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD)-Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary Defense (FAV-D) Division readiness project,” expanding to a collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories to develop a national Mission Needs Assessment for the Federal Government;  an “Animal Disease Response Training (ADRT) adapted to a virtual delivery;” and a couple of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awards to work with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) on projects under the 2018 Farm Bill delivering results for the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP).

Learn more about the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center.


meatRandall Phebus, Sara Gragg, and their  team finalized five years of research sponsored by USDA NIFA to validate and characterize numerous USDA-approved antimicrobial intervention technologies for treating carcasses, fabricated cuts and trim to control food-borne pathogens, such as Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in commercial beef processing operations. Read more...

This research is immediately relevant to the meat industry to assist in food safety decision-making and to comply with pathogen control programs in beef safety. Findings from these beef studies are now being applied in large-scale BRI studies to fresh pork processing to bring these scientifically validated food safety technologies into use for enhanced control of Salmonella and STEC in pork products.

Learn more about Randall Phebus and Sara Gragg.



Sally Davis and Randall Phebus are working collaboratively with their research teams, through a $1 million grant from the USDA and an additional grant from the State of Kansas, to analyze how to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in meat and poultry processing facilities with an emphasis on validating how effective approved cleaners and sanitizers are at inactivating the virus during processing and sanitation.   Read more...

A portion of their research will be conducted at the Biosecurity Research Institute. They will study low temperatures, relative humidity, air movement, proximity of personnel and working areas as well as the life cycle of the virus to identify potential areas of high risk or spread and how to mitigate that. The team looks to develop strategies that will reduce the risk in these facilities putting less pressure on the global food chain.  

Learn more about Sally Davis and Randall Phebus.



Megan Niederwerder's group has continued their work to define the risk and mitigation of African swine fever introduction and transmission through imported feed ingredients. Their latest work has confirmed that African swine fever is transmissible through the natural consumption of contaminated plant-based feed. Additionally, their work defined the half-life of the virus in feed ingredients, which will be used for storage time recommendations as a mitigation tool. Read more...

 Learn more about Megan Niederwerder.


microscopeResearch by our USDA colleagues: Previous research on arboviruses, such as dengue and West Nile virus, has shown that the presence of mosquito saliva influences the initial stages of infection and as a result, the pathogenesis of the infection. These experiments, however, have not been undertaken in naturally affected species or in known targets of infection in those species. Read more...

In order to elucidate the role of Culex tarsalis mosquito saliva during early infection in bovid hosts, Bill Wilson’s group (USDA ARS) has been examining the differences in the expression of cytokines produced by PBMC-derived bovine macrophages (an early target of infection) with wild type Rift Valley fever virus in the presence and absence of saliva. Dr. Wilson and his CEEZAD collaborators have been investigating population genetic diversity of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) isolated from infected cattle, sheep and Culex tarsalis mosquitoes using Next Generation Sequencing technology. Continuing research on the RVFV subunit vaccine in an efficacy study in sheep provides additional support for this approach. Molecular virology and pathology studies are currently ongoing. Understanding the effect of mosquito transmission of RVFV is also being investigated. Outcomes of the ABADRU and CEEZAD collaboration have resulted in several publications. 

Learn more about Bill Wilson.




A study at the Kansas State University Biosecurity Research Institute is the first to confirm that SARS-CoV-2 cannot be transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The study has been published by Nature Scientific Reports.