A new National Research Council report requested by Congress finds “several major shortcomings” in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assessment of risks associated with operating the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS.

The laboratory, to be built at Kansas State University, would study exotic foreign animal diseases, including the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which affects cattle, pigs, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals, and diseases deadly to humans that can be transmitted between animals and people.

Based on the DHS risk assessment reviewed by the Research Council committee, there is nearly a 70% chance over the 50-year lifetime of the facility that a release of FMD could result in an infection outside the laboratory. This release could have a $9-50 billion impact on the economy.

The Research Council report says the risks and costs of a pathogen being accidentally released from the facility could be significantly higher than that indicated by the DHS assessment.

Although the committee that wrote the report recognizes the need for a bio-containment facility to be built in the United States similar to the one proposed in Kansas, it was not required to provide judgment regarding whether the location is appropriate for the proposed facility.

The full 146-page report can be purchased at National Academies Press: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13031.