Breaking ground on Animal Disease Research and Diagnostics Lab


School, state collaborate in upgrading laboratory

South Dakota’s Animal Disease Research and Diagnostics Lab located on campus is receiving renovations and expansions that will allow the lab to further its work in maintaining animal and human health.

South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn and Gov. Dennis Daugaard attended the Sept. 7 ceremony to break ground on the upgrades to ADRDL, which are slated to be completed in 2020. 

“This is the best of us. We’re looking forward, we’re being proactive, we collaborated. The state is showing tremendous leadership and vision to fund it,” Dunn said.

Breaking ground for the $58 million expansion and renovation of the ADRDL building gained momentum in 2014, but has been in the works for nearly a decade. The building is funded through the state since it is a state building located on campus used by the school. 

The lab was built in 1967 and upgraded in 1993, but it is in need of renovations to stay relevant. The upgrades include an area equipped to hold potentially lethal diseases, as well as more space to accommodate new technologies.

An area known as a Biosafety Level 3 Lab will be added to hold serious pathogens so the ADRDL can stay on the forefront of controlling possible future outbreaks.

“We are part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, that’s a USDA organization, and to be a tier one laboratory you need a BSL-3 lab, at least a portion of the lab,” said Jane Christopher-Hennings, the director of the Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department.

The BSL-3 space will allow the lab to keep certain pathogens separate.

“Some of the things we do work on can obviously be human pathogens, which is called zoonosis or zoonotic agents, and those can be passed between animals to people or people to animals, it works both ways,” Hennings said, “and we don’t see any live animals here so we just want to make sure everybody is safe in handling any pathogens we might see.”

The lab has played an influential role in testing for animal diseases and pathogens, including a pathogen plaguing the swine industry in the 1990s and assisting Minnesota researchers during the bird flu outbreak in 2015. 

Dunn said more than 90 percent of the invention disclosures and new ideas that have come from the university in the last ten years have come from the lab. 

Numbers provided by the Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization’s Assistant Vice President, William Aylor, elaborate on the impact the lab has in the state. 

The OTTC began in 2008 and since then it has collected more than $15 million in royalties from intellectual property invented at the lab. The lab has generated just under $2 million every year the last five years.

That success is partially due to its unique location and how it allows researchers and staff to work together in the diagnostics lab.

“This provides a great opportunity because the people who are doing the diagnostic work can work very closely with the researchers who are trying to develop the new tests and the new diagnostic tools to identify diseases,” said Joseph Cassady, head of the Animal Science Department.

Daugaard said the lab will have a “drive-up” window for the public to drop off their samples, making the process simpler, as well as limiting the spread of viruses and/or bacteria through foot traffic.

Officials are hopeful the new equipment, space and BSL-3 portion of the lab will give the ADRDL opportunity to achieve more and have a positive economic impact on the entire state.

“When you’ve got a disease outbreak, every bit of time we can save in developing a rapid test and diagnosing and differentiating the virus that’s causing that disease that’s very important, it could mean millions of dollars for our producers,” Daugaard said.