MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNW) — The new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan is open. Officials say the work done in the high-security federal disease lab will ultimately save lives.

Federal, state and local officials gathered outside NBAF on Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We are here today to celebrate strength, community, and our ability to impact the world through advanced animal disease research,” Richard Linton, K-State president, said.

The 500,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is made of steel and concrete. Officials say nothing is getting in, and nothing is getting out.

NBAF is a biosafety level four (BSL-4) lab. It will study everything from diseases threatening the nation’s livestock to some of the most dangerous animal-borne diseases with no known cure.

“If we had a significant animal health outbreak, it could be catastrophic to our country,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research and Economics under secretary.

Scientists will study diseases like the Nipah virus, a deadly bat-borne disease with outbreaks in northeast Africa and Southeast Asia, and the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, a widespread disease transmitted by infected ticks.

We asked if officials are concerned that some of the more high-risk diseases being studied in the lab could make it into the community.

“There’s always a risk, but what I will say is that this is the most secure bio-containment laboratory ever built in the United States,” said Julie Brewer, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security Innovation and Collaboration.

“Reassurance comes from the fact that people working every single day to create the vaccines, to create the ability of the surveillance, to be able to create the diagnostic lab capacity, to be able to identify problems,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The goal is to protect the nation and the food supply.

“The work that will be done here will be critical in protecting the country and the world against biological, agricultural, and zoonotic diseases,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said.

“Decades from now, people will look back and see this facility is here, changing the nature of our state and protecting and in growing the economy of our country,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas, said.

NBAF is expected to be fully operational in late 2024. It currently has 280 employees but is expected to have more than 400 when fully staffed.