New animal diagnostic lab dedicated in California

New $49.4m diagnostic lab at "front line" of protecting nation's food supply.

A new diagnostic laboratory devoted to protecting farm animals, the food supply and the public against new and emerging diseases was dedicated Oct. 28 in Tulare, Cal., by the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) School of Veterinary Medicine and the California Department of Food & Agriculture.

The Tulare facility is one of four labs in the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System, which is headquartered at UC-Davis and operated for the state by the veterinary school to protect animal health and performance and safeguard public health and the food supply.

“California is proud to be home to the largest and most diverse agriculture in the world,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food & Agriculture. “As we dedicate this new laboratory in Tulare, we are reminded that skilled scientists with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment are truly at the front line, working with farmers, ranchers and veterinarians to protect the safety and security of our nation’s food supply.”

The new $49.4 million, state-funded project will be named in honor of the lab system’s founding director and professor emeritus Alex A. Ardans, who led the statewide diagnostic service for 21 years.

“It is quite fitting as we celebrate the construction of the new Tulare lab that we also honor Dr. Ardans, whose vision and many years of wise leadership enabled the statewide laboratory system to become a national leader in detecting and preventing livestock and poultry diseases,” Michael Lairmore, dean of the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, said.

The new 29,000 sq. ft. laboratory is located adjacent to the UC-Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research Center about eight miles south of the city of Tulare. When fully equipped, the lab will provide rapid detection and response to both routine illnesses and catastrophic, emerging animal diseases. Testing will be available for livestock, poultry and horses.

In addition to the Tulare lab and the central diagnostic lab at UC-Davis, the statewide laboratory system has branch labs in San Bernardino and Turlock, Cal.

The Tulare laboratory is under the leadership of branch chief John Adaska, and the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System is led by director Pam Hullinger, who recently was appointed following the retirement of former director Richard Breitmeyer.

The new branch lab will build on a long history of successes achieved by the statewide laboratory system, including:

* Diagnosing exotic Newcastle disease among backyard chickens in 2002, which led to a $168 million state/federal eradication effort;

* Minimizing the cost of that outbreak and hastening the reopening of international markets by helping develop a high-throughput test for exotic Newcastle disease;

* Detecting California’s first case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 2012 and helping keep trading markets open for the state’s beef industry by demonstrating the effectiveness of the BSE surveillance program, and

* Playing a major role in limiting the spread of avian influenza in 2015 as the U.S. experienced its historically worst outbreak of the disease among poultry flocks.

In 2015, the statewide laboratory system conducted more than a half-million diagnostic tests.

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