VDL exterior

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

A Legacy of Service to Iowa
and U.S. Animal and Public Health

During the 2015 epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the Midwest, the nation looked to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University to help diagnose the affected flocks and contain the crisis.

And when porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) reached the U.S. in 2013, the VDL was first to identify the outbreak, pinpoint where it originated and develop same-day testing for the disease.

Today as the world is gripped in the COVID-19 pandemic, the VDL has once again stepped up. The new Public Health Testing Services (PHTS) in the VDL has worked closely with the State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa in helping that facility meet the crush of testing requirements in Iowa. As the pandemic wore on, the PHTS has provided much-needed testing capacity for Iowa State University’s students, faculty and staff while expanding to service local health care providers’ needs in central Iowa.

These are just a few examples of how the VDL has been a leader in protecting animal and human health since it was established in 1947.

There is no better example of the land-grant mission in action than what occurs at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Processing more than 90,000 cases a year – and performing more than a million tests in total – the laboratory plays a key role in advancing Iowa’s $32 billion animal agricultural industry and ensuring the world’s food supply is plentiful and safe. Since animal diseases impacting trade are recognized as a major threat to the Iowa and U.S. animal agricultural economy, the VDL and its role in providing unbiased third-party diagnoses in livestock and poultry is considered vital to the industry. The laboratory also diagnoses disease in wildlife, companion animals and performance animals.

Iowa State is distinguished for having one of the nation’s few comprehensive laboratories that encompasses the full range of specialty areas including pathology, bacteriology, virology, molecular diagnostics and serology, as well as expensive-to-maintain fields such as toxicology and areas of emerging importance such as clinical pharmacology, genetic sequencing and environmental health. The laboratory’s consistent focus on excellence – from providing accurate, same-day test results to educating the public about outbreaks and other serious health concerns – has led to its current status as the preeminent food animal veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Iowa, the nation and the world.

Barriers to Excellence

In recent years, the quality and breadth of service provided by the laboratory has been achieved despite a facility that has outlived its usefulness.

In the 1970s, the facility was moved into the College of Veterinary Medicine building, where today, 80 percent of the laboratory is located on the underground level, with additional space on the upper floor and in the outdated Veterinary Medicine Research Institute buildings. This limited footprint has not kept pace with the growth of the lab, where the caseload has more than doubled since 2011, many new areas of disease and expertise have emerged, an the group of 10 faculty and 20 technical staff members that populated the space in 1976 has increased to approximately 25 faculty and more than 135 technical staff.

A Laboratory for Tomorrow

In 2012, an extensive exploratory and planning process began the task of envisioning a new stand-alone facility for the VDL. This thorough process included extensive user-group meetings, a professional needs assessment and tours of peer facilities. The resulting plan offers a state-of-the-art facility that will better serve Iowa’s animal agriculture industry and expand the VDL’s ability to develop and incorporate the latest diagnostic tools and techniques.

The proposed building site is located to the south and west of the existing laboratory. The new facility’s location and freestanding design will incorporate critical biocontainment features while allowing easy access for clients and collaboration with other university units. The layout achieves maximum efficiency while resolving serious safety concerns, addressing critical issues of space quantity and quality, and offering an optimal layout of departments to enhance testing capacity and process flow

The facility will ensure outstanding service and technology for veterinarians and for livestock and poultry producers, and provide diagnosticians with the very best resources to ensure diseases and toxicosis are detected quickly and kept from spreading to neighboring herds. It will keep Iowa State at the forefront of discoveries of emerging and re-emerging diseases and provide a rich caseload to teach future veterinary practitioners and make innovative discoveries regarding new methods to control and eradicate diseases.

This infrastructure investment in the only full-service and fully accredited veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Iowa will greatly enhance the state’s diagnostic service and discovery capabilities and support the animal health, food safety, public health and competitiveness of Iowa’ animal agricultural industries for current and future generations of Iowans.

VDL interior
VDL interior
VDL interior
VDL interior
VDL interior
VDL interior
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See live progress on the construction of the new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
WebCam North View

Naming Opportunities

Building Name 
Contact the ISU Foundation for naming details

Entry Plaza
Iowa Corn Growers Association & Iowa Soybean Association 

Ground Floor

  • Lobby
    Iowa Pork Producers Association
  • Pathology Floor 
  • Histology Lab 
  • Sample Receiving/Processing 
  • Client Service Entrance
    Iowa Beef Council
    Cattlemen's Association
    Cattlemen's Foundation
  • Hallway/Corridor
    Dairy Farmers
  • Specimen Viewing Studio
    Iowa Beef Council
    Cattlemen's Association
    Cattlemen's Foundation
  • Student Rounds Room
    Bill Blohm, DVM
  • Conference Room
    Dr. Norm & Beth Cheville
  • Client Services Corridor
  • Archives Room
    Lora and Russ Talbot

Second Floor

  • Faculty/Staff Office Suite 
  • Premier Conference Room
    Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
  • Faculty/Staff/Student Commons 
  • Pathology Viewing Mezzanine 
  • Bacteriology Lab 
  • Poultry Lab
    Iowa Egg Council
    Poultry Association
    Turkey Marketing Council
  • Teaching, Training and Research Lab 
    Lynn Anderson, DVM
  • Media Prep
    Lorraine Hoffman, PhD
  • Offices 


  • Science on Display
    Merck Animal Health

Project Cost and Funding

Phase 1- $75 million

  • The Iowa Legislature has approved a total of $63.5 million for the project
  • University & Private support - $11.5 million

Phase 2- $66.5 million

Project Timeline


The new diagnostic lab project is being partially supported by the state; this means a private funding component is also required. There are several opportunities to name spaces in this new facility. Flexible pledge and payment options. For more information, contact:

Trent Wellman
Director of Development
College of Veterinary Medicine