New laboratory building will boost LSU AgCenter research capacity

Artist Rendering by Sizeler Architects

The LSU AgCenter hosted a ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 13, for a new Animal and Food Sciences Laboratory Building on the Baton Rouge campus.

The new two-story, 48,000-square-foot building will provide state-of-the-art facilities for the AgCenter’s School of Animal Sciences and Departments of Veterinary Science and Food Science.

“This building was a long time coming,” said LSU Chancellor Bill Richardson. “These new laboratories will properly position our programs to address 21st century needs and issues.”

“Research in animal and food science has been a significant contributor to economic development, consumer health and nutrition, and farm profitability in Louisiana,” said John Russin, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.

Now, each department’s laboratories and offices are in separate buildings. “These buildings were built in a different era,” said Phil Elzer, interim head of the Department of Veterinary Science “They’re inadequate for today’s technology.”

Researchers from the three departments will be able to come together in a centralized facility, Elzer said. Where research overlaps, the scientists will have shared space to work together.

“We will have the facility and capacity to do much more,” Elzer said. “This will give us more depth and breadth for animal and food sciences research. We will have the technology to spring forward into something bigger.”

The laboratories will enhance the AgCenter’s ability to support value-added products, said Department of Food Science head John Finley. “We will be able to leverage our culinary reputation with better, innovative products that can add value to raw products, particularly Louisiana seafood.”

Chancellor Bill Richardson, left, and Gov. Bobby Jindal both took part in the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Animal and Food Sciences Laboratory Building at the LSU AgCenter. (Photo by Johnny Morgan)

The department’s culinary development center will be able to expand its work with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center as well as help Louisiana food processors develop and produce new health-promoting foods, Finley said.

“We’ll be able to develop better-tasting, more healthful foods that can improve diets, fight obesity and increase opportunities for food producers,” he said.

Biotechnology, vaccines and improved diagnostics have come out of the current laboratories. For example, animal science researchers have perfected technologies in embryo transfer, said Gary Hay, director of the School of Animal Sciences.

Developments in molecular biology, immunology and genetic engineering have given new dimensions to research on farm animal production. The AgCenter is recognized worldwide as a leader in assisted reproductive technologies for use in livestock improvement, biomedical applications, and propagation of exotic and endangered animal species.

The AgCenter was a partner in developing the world’s first cloned transgenic goats, whose milk produces a drug similar to the human protein antithrombin, which inhibits blood clotting.

AgCenter food scientists have discovered a new material that can mask bitter flavors in food. Substances like glycerine, ethanol and potassium salts can be added to foods in greater quantities without changing the taste. Glycerine can be used to control moisture in food and replace high fructose corn syrup, while potassium salts can be used to replace the more hazardous sodium salts.

Several processes and products have come out of AgCenter animal research. One is a product manufactured and marketed by a Louisiana company, University Products LLC, that is the only “killed” vaccine available to prevent anaplasmosis, a disease that kills red blood cells in cattle.

Another breakthrough discovery led to the development of a startup biopharmaceutical manufacturing company, TransGenRx, which has developed technology that significantly reduces the cost of producing protein-based drugs. Patented and patent pending processes allow TGRx to develop custom proteins to meet a wide range of specifications. Since its inception, the company has won a Small Business Technology Transfer award and contracts with drug manufacturers for its proteins and hormones.

Esperance Pharmaceutical Inc. is a new Louisiana-based biopharmaceutical company that develops novel anticancer agents. Esperance uses patented technologies from the LSU AgCenter, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and Louisiana State University A&M campuses as a foundation for their revolutionary cancer treatments. Their newest drug, EP-100, is currently in Phase I clinical trials.

Construction of the laboratory building will begin around the first of the year and is scheduled for completion by summer 2013. When completed, the total cost of the building and equipment will be more than $20 million. Funding was provided as a direct allocation by the state legislature and has been in process for more than 10 years.

Rick Bogren