The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is searching for a site to replace its aging, 60-year-old animal disease research facility and state lawmakers want that site to be in Oklahoma. On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 33 welcoming the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility project site selection team to the state and encouraging them to select Oklahoma. The resolution is authored by Sen. Mike Johnson, Sen. Ron Justice and Rep. Phil Richardson.
"We want to be a part of the national growth of the life sciences industry," said Johnson, R-Kingfisher. "Bringing this new industry to our state will benefit the state's economy not only by creating new revenue sources, but through the creation of high-technology jobs."
The new facility will conduct research on the interaction between animal, plant, and human diseases as the first line of defense against bio/agro terrorist attacks. Originally, there were 29 submissions for possible sites and that number has been decreased to 14. Justice explained that among those is a proposed Oklahoma site in El Reno at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grazinglands Research Laboratory.
"El Reno would be the perfect location for this facility. It's centrally located near a major airport, major highways and a railroad. Plus, the USDA is already conducting agricultural research," said Justice, R-Chickasha. "It's also close to both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, two schools with growing biotechnological efforts and established research programs on infectious diseases."
Oklahoma State University has a veterinary college, a medical research center and a major biomedical research institute. The university is also developing public health training programs and an animal disease diagnostic laboratory. The University of Oklahoma has a medical school as well as health, genomics and weather research capabilities. The site would also have access to Langston University, which performs goat and aquaculture research, and the University of Tulsa, which offers nationally-regarded cyber security academic programs and research. Both schools are part of the consortium.
The Oklahoma consortium that will serve as a resource to this site, should it be selected, is composed of eight universities from five states, three private research laboratories, two major federal contractors, and two private companies.
The selection process for the site is being jointly conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the USDA, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The selection team will be visiting Oklahoma this year to examine Oklahoma's research capabilities, resources, and infrastructure.
"We want to extend a warm welcome to the selection team and encourage them to choose the Sooner State as the new site for this facility," said Johnson.
The measure now moves to the House for consideration.