Stephen Higgs, PhD, FRES, FASTMH

Associate Vice President for Research, Director, Biosecurity Research Institute
Kansas State University


Stephen Higgs is an infectious disease expert and Director of the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) at Kansas State University. He also serves as a University Associate Vice President for Research and is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a past-president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Since 2003 he has been editor-in-chief of the international journal, Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases, and is on the editorial board of Health Security. He recently received the Higuchi Dolph Simons Award for Research Achievement in Biomedical Sciences.

Higgs earned a PhD in parasitology from Reading University in the United Kingdom and a B.Sc. with honors in zoology from King's College, London. He worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, Oxford, before coming to the U.S. in 1991. He is an elected fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Royal Entomological Society.


Research at the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University

The BRI is a unique biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) and BSL-3Ag facility where scientists and their teams work on pathogens that contaminate food or infect livestock, people, and plants. An arthropod containment level-3 insectary enables research with mosquito vectors. Researchers at the BRI are from many different departments with projects sponsored by several federal agencies and industry partners. The ongoing projects on Wheat blast began in 2009. Research on food-borne pathogens and agents that infect livestock, including zoonotic pathogens that can also infect humans, include studies to evaluate diagnostics and vaccines. With its interdisciplinary research, education and training programs, the BRI is playing a key role in conducting research on transboundary animal diseases that are priorities for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), and in developing a scientific workforce qualified to work at the facility. The BRI is the first and only non-federal facility to be approved to conduct research on classical swine fever virus (CSFV) and African swine fever virus (ASFV) – both pathogens that are designated as priorities for NBAF. A vaccine to protect swine from CSFV infection has been licensed, and has been modified for expression in plants to allow oral vaccination. With the largest group of researchers in the U.S. dedicated to working on ASFV, the groups are working on diagnostics, vaccines, basic virology, swine host genetics and pathway analysis. The research has not only increased our understanding of the viruses but also identified potential routes by which these could be introduced into the United States. Other NBAF-priority pathogens being studied at the BRI are Japanese encephalitis virus and Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV). Studies on JEV have included work on mosquito vectors and the first ever U.S. studies on swine, whilst collaborative research between K-State and U.S.D.A.-ARS scientists on RVFV have included the first U.S. studies on wildlife (white tailed deer). The highly productive research has resulted in 12 publications on CSFV, 19 on ASFV, 7 on JEV and 26 on RVFV. Pat Roberts Hall, where the BRI is located, is also the home of the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC), whose staff work with agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, to deliver training and to develop response capabilities to combat foreign animal disease threats to the United States.

View All Members