Every once in a while, you just have to be proud of Kansas.
There may be a lot of things you can criticize about our state, about political infighting or head-in-the-sand stubbornness. In spite of that, there is more that makes you proud than makes you sad.
This month, my vote for proud goes to the Kansas State University Biosecurity Research Institute, which just published a couple of papers on major studies its scientists have completed as part of their role in fighting the deadly novel coronavirus that has killed 163,000 Americans and is killing 1,000-plus more a day.
Stephen Riggs, the director of the center, went back to the lab to do his part in leading a team conducting research to prove the three main mosquito species that are known to transmit viruses to humans cannot, in fact, replicate and transmit the coronavirus.
Researcher Jurgen Richt is leading research to help us understand the risk of having the virus infect pets or domestic livestock.
BRI is also continuing research on a host of other diseases that threaten human and animal health including African swine fever, Zika virus, West Nile virus and more. As a BSL-3, it has the ability to work with all but the most-deadly pathogens that threaten human and animal health, particularly those diseases that may jump between the species.
I admit to being in awe of the scientists who work there, whether they are studying what kind of common household spices might kill E. coli and Salmonella on foods or a novel coronavirus that has spread into a pandemic and even more in awe of those that will soon be coming to Manhattan to work in the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility that will replace the BSL-4 laboratory in Plum Island, N.Y., that is currently nearing the end of construction next door. The willingness to handle the deadliest pathogens on Earth day in and day out is inspiring.
Also in the pride-inspiring events in Kansas news is the rapid progress being made in Topeka on its new Plug and Play Innovation Campus to cement its position as a major player in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor (which is also a source of pride). GO Topeka has announced Cargill as its first founding partner and will be announcing other partners in the coming weeks with a goal of having at least a dozen startups in place by the end of the year.
There may be a pandemic raging, businesses that normally encourage people to meet, greet and connect put in a position to encourage keeping your distance and schools struggling with how to do classes and football season. But innovation is alive and well and moving forward in Kansas.
My fear is that our challenges are going to nothing but grow in the months that lie ahead. My hope —and increasingly my faith — is that the best of Kansas will find a way to spot the opportunities in these difficult times. We can all do our part to bring our state through the crisis and out to the other side with the least possible damage.