The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) at Iowa State University serves to protect animal and human health and advance Iowa's $32.5 billion dollar animal agriculture economy. According to the recent study "
Economic Contribution of the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
," the state's animal agriculture industry generates $10,487 of direct economic output for each of Iowa's 3.1 million people.
As the State of Iowa's official veterinary diagnostic lab, the only fully accredited and full service veterinary diagnostic lab in Iowa, and one of only 14 Level 1 labs in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network; the
is essential to the early detection and effective response to diseases. It's imperative that ISU's VDL continues to receive full accreditation by meeting standards set forth by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
Last week, the ISU VDL received full accreditation status for all species; however, the site visit team reported significant concerns for the current VDL facility.
"The space and structural limitations of this aging facility combined with the rapid growth of the laboratory will, in the opinion of this site team, limit the laboratory's ability to adequately respond to a large scale foreign animal disease outbreak," the report states.
In addition to the lack of spa
ce at the VDL
, the report emphasized that biocontainment and biosafety are compromised due to poor control of airflow, loss of negative room pressure, humidity,
layout, and less than optimal workflow patterns.
The 40+ year-old facility is grossly outdated and potentially hazardous. Originally built for 11 faculty and 20 technical staff members, the building now houses 25 faculty and 125 technical staff. The VDL is severely overcrowded with minimal room to expand or add new programs, develop or incorporate new technologies, or ensure separation of incompatible activities with the adjoining veterinary hospital.
Beyond issues raised with an outdated facility, the caseload at the VDL has doubled over the past six years, processing 75,000 - 85,000 diagnostic case submissions and conducting more than 1.25 million tests each year - many with same-day results. Timely, comprehensive, and high-quality diagnosis of diseases is key to protect animal and human health, and in being able to effectively respond to large scale outbreaks that can be extremely harmful to Iowa's agriculture industry, such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza that affected nearly 32 million birds and resulted in a $1.2 billion hit to the state in 2015.
It is highly likely that the condition of the current VDL facility will continue to deteriorate, jeopardizing full accreditation. Loss of accreditation would have serious negative implications, not just financially, but also in terms of access to test methods and test certifications under the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
With no capacity to absorb increased demands, issues will persist creating an unsafe environment and posing a major threat to Iowa's meat, milk, poultry, and egg industries.
As a result,
a new stand
-alone VDL facility is the university's number one capital project and will be at the forefront heading into the legislative session to begin in January. The request calls for $100 million in state funding ($20 million per year over a five year period), with an additional $24 million to be raised through private donations and other sources.
As the state's only land-grant institution, the university has the responsibility to ensure the world's food supply is plentiful and safe, provide students with a world class learning experience, and offer assistance to Iowa's producers to generate economic prosperity in Iowa.