Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Facility (PAAR) at OARDC?
This facility allows researchers at the Ohio State University to study microscopic organisms that present serious health risks to plants and food-producing animals and that could also cause undue economic hardship to Ohio and the nation. Additionally, studies on how insects play a role in these diseases will also be conducted in this facility. To perform studies aimed at understanding how these organisms produce disease, researchers need a secure, state-of-the-art laboratory especially designed and equipped to handle this type of research. The PAAR facility is such a building.
2. What are the benefits of having a facility such as PAAR?
PAAR enhances OSU's College of Food and Agricultural Sciences (CFAES) nationally and internationally recognized research programs on infectious diseases of plants and animals, further contributing to the viability of Ohio’s $100 billion-plus agricultural sector — the largest industry in the state. The facility allows Ohio to be proactive in the development of new diagnostic tools, treatments, vaccines, or genetically resistant animals and plants to reduce economic losses from diseases and pests. These types of studies are a central component of CFAES’s mission to assist in producing safe, healthy, and affordable food and agricultural products and a sustainable food and agricultural system. The PAAR facility will also enhance OSU's ability to attract highly competitive faculty and grants to the state and increase revenue from new grants and potential inventions and intellectual property resulting from PAAR research.
3. Why did The Ohio State University build this facility?
CFAES Wooster is the largest university agricultural bioscience research center in the United States. It has an excellent mix of scientists and experts in infectious diseases of plants and animals and insect-borne diseases of plants. Studies in these areas are conducted by faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology, the Center for Food Animal Health Research Program (CFAH), and the Department of Entomology. The PAAR facility will allow researchers at CFAES Wooster to continue their innovative research on plant and animal diseases in a facility that meets federal standards for those pathogens having major economic impacts on animal and plant health.
4. What is unique about the PAAR facility?
PAAR is the only facility in Ohio and one of only two nationally with capacity for both plant and animal research at the BSL-3 and BSL-3 Ag safety levels. Another three facilities nationwide have the BSL-3 Ag safety level designation for animal-related research only. PAAR is the first BSL-3 facility on the CFAES Wooster campus and Ohio State University’s first BSL-3 Ag facility.
5. What do BSL-3 and BSL-3 Ag mean?
Biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) and biosafety level 3 Ag (BSL-3 Ag) refer to safety guidelines established by federal law for conducting research with a variety of microorganisms. Under federal guidelines, all facilities handling potentially infectious agents must adhere to strict procedures to insure containment of these pathogens. Depending on the ease with which microorganisms can be transmitted, they are classified as BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, or BSL-4, with BSL-4 carrying the highest risk of infection. A BSL-3 Ag facility meets the standards for handling diseases of food-producing animals classified at the BSL-3 safety level. CFAES Wooster has several BSL-2 laboratories and greenhouses. Ohio State has several BSL-3 laboratories on the Columbus campus, but PAAR will be the first BSL-3 laboratory at CFAES Wooster and the only one at the university for use with livestock.
6. Is the PAAR facility safe?
Yes. PAAR will comply with all federal and institutional requirements regulating the construction and safe operation of BSL-3 and BSL-3 Ag labs. For example, the building will have special airtight construction and the outgoing air will be filtered through High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that trap microorganisms and prevent escape into other sections of the facility and the surrounding environment.
7. What kind of research on plant and animal diseases will be conducted at the PAAR facility?
The types of research done in this facility will most likely vary over time because the university will attract new researchers with new or different interests; additionally, new plant and animal diseases and insect pests will continue to emerge over time. However, the focus of the PAAR facility will remain on plant and animal diseases as long as this is the mission of CFAES. For the immediate future, studies conducted in this facility will include:
•Avian influenza, which threatens the $93 million turkey industry in Ohio and for which there is no effective vaccine available at this time.
•Soybean rust, which threatens the 4.4 million acres of soybeans planted in Ohio with revenues of $1 billion annually (a 10-percent loss of soybean yield in Ohio due to rust would result in at least a $100 million economic loss to producers).
•Emerald ash borer, which is projected to cause $3 billion in economic loss to Ohio over the next 10 years due to destruction of ash trees.
8. If CFAES researchers are already studying plant and animal diseases, why does it need PAAR?
PAAR will allow CFAES scientists to conduct research on diseases of plants and animals (such as soybean rust and certain viruses) that cannot be handled at current facilities because of federal safety restrictions. Having this facility will allow university scientists to compete for additional federal grants and hire talented faculty whose work requires BSL-3 and BSL-3 Ag laboratories. Overall, PAAR will enable CFAES and The Ohio State University to continue to meet industry and state expectations, providing proactive answers to impending disease problems facing Ohio’s plant and animal industries rather than being reactive once the problems occur.
9. Will the PAAR facility be used to conduct any studies on human diseases?
The PAAR facility will be used to conduct studies on diseases of animals that are zoonotic (transmitted from animals to human beings).
10. What is the cost of the PAAR facility and what are the sources of funding?
PAAR has an estimated cost of $22.2 million. Funding comes from state of Ohio capital funds, CFAES funds and federal grants.
11. Where is the PAAR facility located?
PAAR will be located on the CFAES Wooster campus next to the Center for Food Animal Health (CFAH) on Ferguson Drive.
12. What about future BSL-3 facilities on the CFAES Wooster campus?
At this time the PAAR facility meets our researchers’ needs for the foreseeable future.
13. What about physical security? How safe is the facility from intruders?
The facility uses multiple layers of physical security, monitoring and access control, prohibiting entry to any persons not authorized for access. For public safety, specifics on security mechanisms are confidential.
14. Will any of the research done in this building include biological weapons-related studies?
No. Research is focused only on diseases of importance to plants and animals. Additionally, The Ohio State University prohibits all forms of weapons research as a matter of policy.
15. What about classified research? Will classified research be done at this facility?
The Ohio State University does include some classified research among the approximately 4,000 projects it has underway. The university is obligated by law to acknowledge conducting such research but withholds specific information as prescribed by law.
16. Will this facility use laboratory animals in its research?
Yes. Laboratory animals will be used in the PAAR facility. PAAR will be constructed to meet the animal care guidelines of the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.
17. What oversight mechanisms have been put into place to responsibly monitor the activities underway at the new facility?
The facility is registered through the USDA and oversite is provided through multiple on and off site agencies. USDA, AAALAC, IACUC and IBC all play roles in oversite of projects and facility.
18. How will infectious agents and materials be moved into and out of the facility?
Infectious agents will be moved into the facility under strict protocols and guidelines that require the use of special transport containers and specially trained personnel. CFAES will not move any infectious agent out of the facility, as all work with these agents will occur within the PAAR facility.
19. What is a select agent?
Select agents/toxins are those that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers to have the potential to pose a severe threat to human health and those that the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers a severe economic threat to the plant industry.
20. Who is in charge of ensuring that laboratories such as PAAR follow current guidelines for safety and security?
The federal government has established the current guidelines for safety and security in these facilities. All personnel working in the facility will be required to be trained in the handling of specific infectious agents used in the PAAR facility and the established guidelines for safety and security. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will inspect the facility and review plans prior to operation and while the facility is in operation to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Ohio State University’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety will provide oversight to ensure compliance with federal regulations and institutional requirements.
21. Could this facility be converted from a BSL-3/BSL-3 Ag to a BSL-4 laboratory?
No. BSL-3 and BSL-3 Ag facilities will not meet BSL-4 requirements.