By: Katie Berndt, For the Register 

BROOKINGS – If you’ve driven by the northwest side of South Dakota State University’s campus lately, you might have noticed construction equipment, orange cones and “Road Closed” signs spanning North Campus Drive.

But one thing you may not have seen is nestled behind the Animal Science Complex and veterinary science labs. 

Construction on the new Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory has continued into the fall since beginning early last spring, and construction crews are making quick work of the outer part of the building. The final beam in the structure was laid in August, with university and state officials autographing the beam as it was placed. 

As construction continues, here are five of the biggest things to know about the new labs.

1. The exterior of the building should be completed by December.

Administrators expect the building to be fully enclosed before the winter weather sets in. Construction will continue on the interior of the building safe from the elements over the winter and should be completed late next summer. The renovation of the current ADRDL is scheduled to be finished in late spring 2020. 

“We’re really excited for the project to be done,” Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department Head Jane Christopher-Hennings said. “It’s for our people who work here as well as those people who want us to do the testing, so it benefits a lot of people.”

2. The new addition will have a drive-up window to drop off samples. 

One service offered by the lab is sample testing for livestock, wildlife and companion animals in the state, as well as food safety testing when needed. The lab frequently takes in and tests blood and tissue samples for suspected illnesses, like Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. 

Samples can be shipped or dropped off at the lab. The window will be accessed by a driveway off of Medary Avenue, avoiding the need to take the longer route around the animal science buildings. 

According to Christopher-Hennings, a drive-up window will save time and effort, as well as reducing the risk of people tracking biosafety hazards in or out of the lab when they drop off their samples. 

“You can turn right into the driveway before you get onto North Campus Drive, which sometimes might be closed due to the Hobo Day parade or football games, so it’ll be easier access,” Christopher-Hennings said. 

3. It includes a biosafety level 3 area. 

There are four biosafety levels put in place by the Centers for Disease Control as precautions to contain dangerous bacteria, viruses and other agents. The current ADRDL has only biosafety levels 1 and 2. 

Similar to having an isolation room in a human hospital, the space will allow diagnostic researchers to safely work with highly contagious diseases like highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and West Nile Virus. The space will be a unique setup that allows the lab to convert it from biosafety level 3 to biosafety level 2 when level 3 is not needed. 

4. It more than doubles the space of the existing lab. 

The addition of 40,000 net square feet more than doubles the size of the current lab in SDSU’s Veterinary Science building. According to Chris Chase, professor for the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, many of the ongoing research projects don’t have enough space where they are now. 

Programs are currently spread between the Animal Science and Veterinary Science buildings on campus, making it more difficult for researchers to collaborate and discuss projects under one roof. 

5. Research staff helped design their own labs.

While the design for the new lab is similar to the existing lab for the sake of continuity, researchers with ongoing projects were allowed to make suggestions and assist in the redesign of the update. 

“We tried to really design it a little after this one, where we have our necropsy floor and you can pass samples to the different labs,” Christopher-Hennings said. 

What is the ADRDL?

The original diagnostic lab was built in 1967, with a renovation in 1993. 

According to Jane Christopher-Hennings, the lab performs about 500,000 tests each year on everything from livestock to wildlife and companion animal diseases. Many of the samples deal with routine health and herd management. Some services offered by the lab include:

• Livestock, wildlife and companion animal disease diagnosis

• Cancer diagnosis for companion animals

• Rabies testing 

• Food safety testing for food-borne illnesses

The lab is accredited through the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and, according to its website, has served South Dakota and the surrounding region since 1887. 

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