Media Coverage

USDA appoints Clavijo as director for new NBAF


Oct 07, 2019 - Animal Pharm
By Daniel Wills

The USDA has named Alfonso Clavijo as the first permanent director of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF).

The new NBAF is set to be a state-of-the-art USDA research and diagnostic facility designed to defend US agricultural systems and stakeholders against possible threats and the potential impact of serious animal diseases. It will be jointly run by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The facility – planned to be 574,000 square feet – is currently under construction by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is expected to be completed in 2021, before becoming fully operational in 2023. Dr Clavijo will be accountable in ensuring the smooth transition of responsibility from the DHS to the USDA.

The NBAF facility will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York and will be located in Manhattan, Kansas.

The new facility will be constructed and operated on a federally-owned site on the northeast corner of Kansas State University. Work on the facility was previously expected to begin in 2013, however it lacked the funding necessary. In 2015, US congress passed a bill supporting funds of $300 million for NBAF – completing the $1.25 billion target needed to build the facility.

Prior to joining the NBAF, Dr Clavijo served as laboratory executive director of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) National Centres for Animal Disease. As director, he oversaw the administration of diagnostic services, related technology development and research to prevent and detect transboundary, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases.

He has held leadership positions at Texas A&M University as senior science advisor, the Pan-American Health Organization as an advisor on molecular biology and Kansas State University as professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.

Dr Clavijo also has experience in the management of biosafety level 2-4 facilities, which enable the contained study of pathogens that cause foreign animal diseases. These diseases include African swine fever, classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza.

He holds two doctorate degrees – veterinary microbiology/virology from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and veterinary medicine from National University in Bogota, Colombia.

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, administrator for USDA-ARS, said: "As NBAF's first permanent director, his extensive leadership experience will be a great asset in helping NBAF achieve its vision of being a national asset that protects US agriculture and consumers through cutting-edge research, diagnostics, training, and development of vaccines and other countermeasures."

The USDA-ARS recently revealed plans to build three new 'state-of-the-art' research facilities on one of its current bases in Kerrville, Texas. The $54 million project will involve the development of a new administration and laboratory building, a fly and tick research facility and an ancillary building space.

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