UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Expansion Complete

In 2008 the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) broke ground on a $28.5 million expansion and renovation. Now the state-of-the-art project is complete, and the lab is better equipped to serve Kentucky's animal agriculture industries.

"This new facility finally puts us in a position where we can take our diagnostic testing services to the next level for Kentucky animal agriculture," said Craig Carter, DVM, MS, PhD, director of the lab. "We thank our legislature, industry stakeholders and the College of Agriculture administration, especially Dean Scott Smith and Associate Dean Nancy Cox, for their vision and incredible support of our program."

The UKVDL is a full-service animal health diagnostic facility. Its faculty and staff handle one of the largest caseloads in the nation, seeing 60,000 clinical cases and performing an average of 4,000 necropsies each year. The laboratory also protects public health by diagnosing many zoonotic diseases that can potentially infect people.

Prior to the renovations, the lab had one of the smallest necropsy floors in the United States. Now, at 3,000 square feet, it's one of the largest.

"The expansion of the work space was a critical need for all operations, particularly for replacing the cramped necropsy space, and also for maintaining biosecurity for infectious agents," said Nancy Cox, MS, PhD, associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. "The facilities allow for maximum efficiency of operations and also have allowed more opportunities for collaboration with fellow state agencies and veterinary stakeholders."

Improvements to the facility include the addition of wings for necropsy laboratories and administration, which freed up much of the existing building to increase overall laboratory space. These expansions nearly doubled the size of the previously 38,000-square-foot facility.

The center switched to alkaline digestion as its main form of tissue disposal, which is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than other methods. UKVDL is the only lab in the world with two 10,000 lb. digesters, which operate at only a quarter of the cost of incinerators. These and other technological improvements allow the facility to meet current biosafety requirements.

The planning for the project began in 2003 under the leadership of Cox and Lenn Harrison, the lab's former director. Stakeholders began looking at other diagnostic laboratories across the country and made plans for improvements. The university received $8.5 million for the project from the 2005 state legislative session and an additional $20 million from the 2008 legislature.

Kentucky's first lady Jane Beshear made remarks at the UKVDL's ribbon cutting.

"With national accreditation and state-of-the-art technology, the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab will have a far-reaching impact that will attract national attention," she said. "The Governor and I are delighted that Kentucky Agricultural Development funds have assisted in the renovation and expansion of this groundbreaking facility, which will be a tremendous resource in protecting animal health."

Cox said the facility strives to be one of the premiere veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the United States, providing the very best and most timely services in support of the practicing veterinary profession, Kentucky animal agriculture, the signature equine industries, companion animals and public health.

The primary goal of the lab is to develop, apply and utilize state-of-the-art technology and scientific knowledge to improve animal health and marketability, preserve the human-animal bond and help protect public health.

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