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Friday 2-26-99

KSU research may delve into deadly agents

By The Associated Press

MANHATTAN - Researchers at Kansas State University could work with some of the most deadly agents in the world.

University officials said Wednesday that a proposed addition to the university's veterinary medicine complex could include laboratories for testing how biological warfare affects animals and humans.

Kansas State is planning to submit plans for an infectious disease center in April to the Board of Regents and begin looking for funding, officials said Wednesday.

The center would research infectious diseases in both humans and animals, said Dean Ralph Richardson of the veterinary school. And Richardson said it's possible the project would include facilities to study viruses or diseases used in biological warfare.

"We don't know yet," Richardson said.

University officials still are gathering information to determine "is this something we want to do?" he said.

If the research center includes such biological warfare research, officials said, it would be sealed so that there is little risk to people working there or to the community.

The university has expressed interest in pursuing the study of biological warfare, Kansas State spokeswoman Sue Peterson said.

"This is becoming a national issue," Peterson said.

The infectious disease center, including the possible biological warfare labs, is expected to cost as much as $70 million, Richardson said.

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee could provide money to build the addition and a biological warfare lab, university officials said.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas State graduate, heads the emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee.

The infectious disease center would provide labs and equipment for students and faculty to study diseases transmitted from animals to humans, Richardson said. It also would study animal-to-animal infections and human-to-human infections.

Biological warfare study would fit perfectly into the center's mission, Richardson said.

"You can't separate out infectious disease research from biological warfare research," Richardson said.

If the labs were built to study biological warfare, studies could include the effects those agents have on the body and how victims could be treated.

That could mean infecting animals with biological agents to see how those agents might affect humans or examining people who've been exposed to biological weapons.

"We're trying to find ways to assure human health," Richardson said.


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