Newswise — Kansas State University's BRI -- Biosecurity Research Institute -- is the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program's first designated training facility in the nation.

"When the BRI was designed, we knew it wouldn't be enough to build a facility focused exclusively on research needs," said Ron Trewyn, K-State's vice president for research. "Those charged with performing the research and working in the facility must also be adequately prepared to conduct their tasks in a safe manner."

The BRI, at K-State's Pat Roberts Hall, is the only biosafety level-3 biocontainment research and training facility in the U.S. that can accommodate high-consequence pathogen research on food animals, food crops and food processing under one roof, which allows for a more comprehensive research approach. Pat Roberts Hall is also equipped with an integrated training suite that includes a classroom and mock lab, as well as a large auditorium and advanced video capabilities.

The National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program was established in 2004 through a partnership with the Office of Research Services, Division of Occupational Health and Safety, National Institutes of Health. Administered by the Frontline Healthcare Workers Safety Foundation, the program aims to provide the latest in professional education to those who operate, maintain and work in biocontainment laboratories.

Deborah E. Wilson, director of the Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the National Institutes of Health, said recent advances in animal and public health research have led to a growing number of labs and a pressing need for high-quality occupational safety and health training.

"With the expansion of biocontainment laboratories in the U.S., so expanded the need for highly trained, biosafety professionals to help protect the investments made, support the nation's pressing research initiatives and to ensure the safety of the communities in which these laboratories are sited," she said. "In the last five years, the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program has expanded to provide training for laboratory professionals across the globe. We are leading the way in biocontainment laboratory sustainability."

Wilson also commended the BRI's focus on safe research and training.

"This designation is an acknowledgment of the BRI's commitment, that of Kansas State and that of the state of Kansas -- a commitment to the public health and safety of our country," she said. "The research to be conducted here and the personnel you have retained will ensure that the BRI will be as safe as its research is scientifically productive."

Murray L. Cohen, president of the Frontline Healthcare Workers Safety Foundation, which serves as the government contractor for the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program, noted the vision it took to pull together a facility like the BRI.

"Kansas State University, through the Biosecurity Research Institute, has shown bold foresight in planning for biosecurity and food security matters," he said. "This facility is unparalleled and unsurpassed. It took at lot of vision and gumption to move forward and put this together while a lot of folks were simply talking about what is needed."

Later this summer, the BRI also will be the first in the nation to host the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program's premier biosafety and biocontainment curriculum. That session will provide the latest in professional education to those who handle biohazardous materials in biocontainment laboratories.