A proposed $124 million expansion and renovation to the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory would provide benefits to not only Iowa State students, but to animals and food safety across the country.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) has a history of protecting animals in Iowa and throughout the United States. In 2013, the VDL identified and created testing for the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and in 2015, the lab helped contain the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

In order for the VDL to continue and expand upon its work in preventing disease and outbreaks, the lab proposed the $124 million plan to increase testing capacity, eliminate safety concerns, increase efficiency and provide more space for academics and research.

“Our goal with this project would really be to build a standalone facility because we need to continue to provide this capability while we take ourselves into the 21st century,” Kate Gregory, senior vice president for university services at Iowa State, told the Iowa Board of Regents on Sept. 7.

The new standalone facility would be 151,000 square feet, located near the existing VDL building on the Veterinary Medicine campus and would be budgeted as a five-year project starting in 2018, Gregory said.

“Building a new standalone structure is a 50- to 100-year solution,” said Rodger Main, director of the ISU VDL.

Two comprehensive studies with third-party firms assessed needs and developed the details for the proposal, which includes the ability to handle future growth, Main said.

“This new building will further enhance the capacity to do what we do well,” said Eric Burrough, associate professor and diagnostic pathologist at the VDL.

The VDL’s work with PEDv and HPAI resulted in breakthroughs, and this new facility would allow for more research to be done. The design of the proposal could create more efficiency for research and communication.

“The [current] lab wasn’t designed to support the volume of samples … we are spread into four separate labs and this will bring everything closer and function as a unit,” Burrough said.

Along with not being designed for the amount of samples and staff who are present, the VDL’s current design compromises safety.

“The layout of the facility, in the same building as the hospital, sharing airflow systems, is at the point where we have core infrastructure problems,” Main said.

Biosafety and biocontainment concerns because of the limitations imposed by the current infrastructure of the VDL are of central importance in the push for a new facility.

“As we look at risk management, we haven’t been able to build things into the lab because of the size restrictions,” Burrough said.

The $124 million plan includes $100 million in state appropriations that must be recommended by the Board of Regents to the state before Oct. 1 in order for the project to begin.

“We have reached max capacity and can’t grow [with the current facilities],” Burrough said. “If we want to push the envelope we need this new purpose structure built.”