Plum Island of the Midwest

I’m not sure whether to cheer or to be afraid:

The department said the MU application was among 18 selected for the next phase of the review process. The new $450 million facility would be used to investigate infectious diseases and bioterrorism threats and to react to health emergencies.

Joe Kornegay, dean of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, said the fact that the Missouri consortium had survived the first cut in the selection process was a reflection of the quality of those participating in the “I-70 life sciences corridor.”

In addition to MU, the Missouri group includes Washington University, St. Louis University, the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis and the Kansas City-area Life Sciences Institute. Animal-health companies based in Fort Dodge, Kan., and Kansas City also are part of the consortium.

This new facility would replace the aging research complex at Plum Island, which sits off the northeast tip of Long Island, New York. While it is old, it does have one key advantage to a location in the Midwest: It’s far, far away from the farm animals who might catch the diseases studied at such a place.

Columbia, Missouri is a lot closer to those animals than Plum Island.

For a look at one possible worst case scenario, see the new novel Deadstock by Kate Iola. Just as my wife‘s degree in molecular biology lends credence to her novel The Armageddon Strain, Kate’s master’s degree in Molecular Pathology makes the threat of a disease like Foot in Mouth escaping from a secure facility worth considering.

On the other side of the equation: A $450 million construction budget and lots of government research grants down the road. That’s a lot of money.


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