Phase 1 of New VDL Making Progress

January 25, 2022

Right before you exit off of Highway 30 in Ames on University Drive, look to the north and you’ll notice that construction on the $75 million Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Phase 1 project at Iowa State University is making substantial progress and is slated to be completed in 2023.

But that’s only the beginning, not the end, of the VDL project.

Planning is underway for Phase 2, a $64.3 million addition to the laboratory currently being constructed. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has recommended an additional $58.9 million in state appropriations for an addition to phase 1 in the FY23 state budget, a figure that still needs to be approved by the Iowa State Legislature. The remainder of Phase 2 funding would be covered by private donations and university funds.

The proposed funding for Phase 2 will run over four fiscal years beginning in FY23.

Phase 2 is necessary because 80% of the current lab’s work and services were not able to be included in Phase 1. These critical diagnostic services, including molecular diagnostics, serology, virology, analytical chemistry, toxicology/pharmacology, genetic sequencing, bioinformatics, BSL-3 lab, and the VDL’s research and development functions, currently will remain in their outdated location. The VDL’s administrative staff and support functions will also continue to be housed in their current locations until Phase 2 is completed.

“I worry when we move the first units into the new space, people may think that project is completed,” said Dr. Rodger Main, director of the VDL. “Far from it. There is a time-sensitive need in the weeks ahead for supporters of this much-needed investment in infrastructure to contact their legislators and urge them to get the entirety of the VDL building project funded.”

Phase 1 is being constructed so that Phase 2 can be seamlessly added on, bringing all of the VDL’s operations under one roof. Dr. Main emphasizes that this investment in infrastructure will play a key role in safeguarding animal health, public health and the competitiveness of Iowa and U.S. livestock industries decades in the future.

Phase 1 will include receiving/accessioning, necropsy, sample processing, histopathology, bacteriology, pathology and an incinerator. Dr. Main describes these units as the laboratory’s “front-end functions.” Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

The final product will also look vastly different than the current 1970s edition.

“The spaces are being strategically built for purpose, and are way more open and flexible than what we currently have,” Dr. Main said. “The biocontainment, biosafety and the quality and quantity of space will all be much improved. We’re building a building that puts us in a position to be flexible for the generations to come.”

In addition to state funding for Phase 1, the VDL project has received financial commitments from the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association and commodity groups including the Iowa Pork Producers Association; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iowa Beef Industry Council, Cattlemen’s Association and Cattleman’s Foundation; the Iowa American Dairy Association of the Midwest, Iowa Egg Council, Poultry Association, Turkey Federation and Turkey Marketing Council; Iowa Corn Growers Association and Corn Promotion Board; Iowa Soybean Association and United Soybean Board; Merck Animal Health; and Farm Credit Services of America as well as several companies and individuals.

For more information on the project, contact Dr. Dan Grooms, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at 515.294.1242 or