PULLMAN — A new center that is the first in the nation intended to study the spread of deadly diseases from animals to humans has been dedicated at Washington State University.
The facility is a centerpiece of WSU’s expansion into a new field of research by creating the School of Global Animal Health.
“Somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of the diseases that infect humans over time have their origin in animals,” said Guy Palmer, a professor of pathology and infectious diseases at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “You want to control the disease before it comes into humans.”
The school’s researchers study infectious diseases such as avian flu, E. coli and the bubonic plague. One of the most important areas of research, Palmer said, is studying how antibiotic resistance spreads on a global level.
The new building will allow the college to attract the best disease researchers around, said Palmer, who is the school’s director.
“We’ve really worked to develop the school as the first of its kind,” he said. “Five years ago, it was a pretty small effort. It took a while to actually get implemented.”
The new Paul G. Allen Center for Global Animal Health is funded by a $26 million gift from Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft and former WSU student. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $25 million. Construction wrapped at the end of July, and several researchers have already moved into the building.
The mission of the school, Palmer said, is to explore ways to improve health and economic security throughout the world, especially for people living in dire poverty. Many poor people live among animals, creating pathways for diseases to jump to humans.
The center’s faculty works with researchers at partner institutions in Tanzania, Kenya and South America.