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Center of Excellence targets emerging zoonotic diseases

Three research themes define the Center of Excellence of Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, at Kansas State University.

Led by Director Juergen Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor and an Eminent Scholar for the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the CEEZAD has as its mission the enhancement of the capability of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the development of state-of-the-art countermeasures for high-priority emerging and zoonotic animal diseases.

Theme 1 for the center is the generation of vaccines. In that effort, the CEEZAD works to develop, test and validate new vaccine platforms for rapid development against newly discovered and economically important threat pathogens.

Under study currently at the Biosecurity Research Institute, a Level 3 biosafety lab housed in Pat Roberts Hall, are viruses that cause Rift Valley fever and avian influenza, and the development of new vaccines that can contain an outbreak of either of those pathogens and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. Future work will include the foot-and-mouth disease virus as well.

Key Points

• Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases established at K-State.

• Center works to develop vaccines, detection devices and modeling tools.

• Center also plays key role in continuing ed for current, future scientists and leaders.

Theme 2 provides for detection of unknown or novel pathogens, and a transfer of established tools to industry partners to enable the manufacture of field-deployable detection devices. Work involves developing the ability to differentiate serologically between infected and vaccinated animals, and the support of vaccine studies being done under Theme 1.

The goal is to develop rapid multiplex assays for differential detection of multiple pathogens, and to build rugged field-portable devices that enable the rapid separation, capture and detection of viruses and bacteria.

Theme 3 covers epidemiology and involves conducting zoonotic and emerging animal disease transmission, and economic modeling that will help U.S. policymakers develop an emergency response to a threat.

A long-term goal of the Theme 3 research is to give national policymakers easy-to-use modeling interfaces that can be run on laptop computers and used as interactive planning tools.

In addition to cutting-edge research to develop preventive and detection tools, the CEEZAD also has an educational role in training the next generation of experts in animal health and national decision-makers.

Its Education and Outreach Overlay includes continuing education for current scientists and leaders through classes, seminars and certificate programs; outreach to diagnostic laboratories, first responders, media, and elementary and secondary school programs; and mentorship of college students and graduate students in programs through the Ph.D. level.

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of KANSAS FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.