The University of Missouri held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to mark the beginning of a project to expand and renovate the College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Plans include building a 34,200-gross-square-foot addition to the existing building, which will also undergo renovations.
The cost of the project is $30 million, which is being funded by the State of Missouri, which provided $15 million, the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, which contributed $10 million, private gifts totaling $3.5 million, and the University of Missouri, which provided $1.5 million.
The existing VMDL was constructed in 1974 and comprises 21,144 gross square feet. It no longer meets space needs and is not conducive to implementing current biosecurity and biosafety protocols.
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony included remarks from UM System President Mun Choi, who noted the significance of the groundbreaking.
“This is a big deal because this investment shows that the University of Missouri cares about its roots in agriculture, animal science, and veterinary medicine,” Choi said. “And through this investment, we will be able to meet not only our student success objectives, but research objectives that are tied in very closely to engagement with the agriculture community here in the state. In this state, there are more than 450,000 workers in this very important industry, and the industry contributes more than $94 billion to the economy. So, it is the most important industry in the state. It helps to not only feed the world but clothe the world, and the College of Vet Medicine is going to play a key role in ensuring that this investment will pay off.”
MU Provost Latha Ramchand also addressed the gathering. Ramchand spoke about the pride the university has in fulfilling its land-grant mission.
“Today is about reaffirming our commitment to every citizen in the state who is directly or indirectly impacted by the work we do,” Ramchand said. “And of course, there is a personal angle to this. The VMDL, as I’m sure many of know, is also about finding solutions to human health. (VMDL Director) Dr. Shuping (Zhang) takes pride in the fact that over the last couple of years, we’ve been on the forefront trying to do everything we can to test human samples in our fight against SARS-CV-2. And we could not do this without the work that is being done at the CVM and the VMDL,” she said.
College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Carolyn Henry spoke of some of the work that takes place within the VMDL and how the new facility will enhance the college’s service to the state.
“The VMDL team performs more than 167,000 diagnostic tests each year, and that provides support to veterinary practitioners, livestock and poultry interests, wildlife conservationists, researchers, and government officials and industry. The addition to the building will add 34,200 square feet. It will permit us to have separate receiving areas and laboratories for routine and high risk and foreign animal diseases so that we can prevent diseases from going beyond our borders by early detection,” she said.
Other features will include space for client consultation, an after-hours sample drop-off area and space for laboratory teaching and research.
CVM alumni Missouri Rep. Kent Haden, DVM ’76, and Clark Fobian, DVM ’77 also shared remarks.
Haden spoke of the importance of the VMDL to provide rapid diagnoses to prevent disease outbreaks from spreading. He also related that the VMDL had provided support to him both as a farmer and as a foreign animal disease specialist for the state.
“I’m going to hold everybody to one health” he said. “Because any disease that we probably get in the future, or most, will probably be a transgenic disease,” he said.
Fobian, who was Haden’s lab partner while in veterinary school, spoke of the overlapping missions of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association and the CVM and why the MVMA members had worked to gain support for the project.
“This laboratory, unlike any other in the state, has the full backing of the college, state-of-the-art equipment, it will have the infrastructure, we have unparalleled depth of expertise – the virologists, the toxicologists, the epidemiologists. We can bring it together here for the benefit of eliminating animal diseases and serving our population.
“It is a tool for the State of Missouri to fulfill the needs of its animal owning residents,” Fobian said.
VMDL Director Shuping Zhang was the final speaker. Zhang thanked Choi, Ramchand and Henry for their visionary leadership, lawmakers and leaders of state and government agencies for their support, the VMDL Advisory Board, and VMDL and college faculty and staff. Zhang also shared the news that the VMDL had recently received renewal of full accreditation from the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.
“Now with this great new facility, we will be able to enhance our biosafety, biosecurity, the testing capacity, and the capabilities to educate our students and residents to conduct animal health research and to provide much needed diagnostic services in order to protect and promote Missouri’s animal health, public health and agricultural economy,” Zhang said.