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K-State open house showcases new lab

By Doug Rich

EXPANDED LABORATORY--The Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine hosted an open house and tour of their expanded and upgraded molecular laboratory on May 6. Speaking at the open house were Dr. Richard Oberst, professor of diagnostic medicine at K-State, Chuck Piazza, vice president and general manager of the molecular biology reagents business unit at Life Technologies, and Dr. Gary Anderson, director of the K-State veterinary diagnostic laboratory. (Journal photo by Doug Rich.)

Kansas State University held an open house May 6 to showcase an expanded and upgraded molecular diagnostic laboratory. Increased capacity at the diagnostic lab will benefit veterinarians and producers not only in Kansas but also across the country.

Dr. Ralph Richardson, dean of K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, said discussions about the importance of molecular diagnostic services began in 1998 when he returned to K-State to take his current position.

"Today is the result of a vision created by people in Kansas working with Applied Biosystems," Richardson said.

Applied Biosystems, a division of Life Technologies Corporation, is a global leader in developing molecular biology systems, reagents, and other technologies. Applied Biosystems provided equipment and product support for this project.

New equipment in the lab includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) systems, which can assist scientists in performing rapid genetic analysis and detecting a broad range of infectious diseases. In addition, existing technologies and software were upgraded.

"Some time ago, we made a commitment to focus on molecular diagnostics because we believe it's essential for providing the very best service to our clients and it is necessary for high-throughput disease surveillance programs," Gary Anderson, director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said.

The high-throughput equipment is the key for expanded customer service. The automated system can handle 96 samples at one time. Anderson said they have gone from handling hundreds of samples a day to handling thousands of samples a day.

Higher capacity is critical to providing better service to individuals and veterinarians in the field, Anderson said. Rather than diagnosing a disease that already exists in a single animal or herd, the lab will be able to do more preventive work.

"Surveillance is the right thing to be doing and we are ready for that now," Anderson said.

Anderson looks forward to the time when producers will send in samples from their herds on a regular basis. It will be like scouting a crop for insects and disease before an outbreak occurs so preventative measures can be taken.

Thanks to funding from Applied Biosystems, Anderson said the lab would add a staff position. This person will be the connection between clients in the field and the lab.

The lab is intended for animals of all species depending on the disease and tests available at the time. Although production animals will be the focus to start with, the lab will not be limited to any one species.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by e-mail at richhpj@aol.com.

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