Boston Debates Banning Deadliest Pathogens From New Biolab

U.S. military biological laboratory personnel undergo decontamination during a 2007 exercise in California. Boston is set to convene a hearing this week on whether to ban the study of highly sensitive disease agents at a recently completed Boston University laboratory.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
April 14, 2014, 10:36 a.m.

Bo­ston is set this week to de­bate wheth­er to ban a new, down­town biode­fense labor­at­ory from study­ing some of the world’s dead­li­est dis­ease agents.

A Wed­nes­day city coun­cil hear­ing is ex­pec­ted to con­sider a pro­posed city­wide pro­hib­i­tion on so-called “Biosafety Level 4” re­search, which can in­volve dis­eases for which there are no known cures. The ini­ti­at­ive marks the latest loc­al push­back against Bo­ston Uni­versity’s ef­fort to pur­sue the sens­it­ive patho­gen stud­ies at its re­cently com­pleted Na­tion­al Emer­ging In­fec­tious Dis­eases Labor­at­or­ies.

In his draft or­din­ance, Coun­cilor Charles Yan­cey said con­duct­ing such re­search at the site could en­able an agent such as Ebola or Mar­burg to es­cape in­to the city, either by ac­ci­dent or de­lib­er­ate ac­tion.

“I am not con­vinced we really need to in­vite that pos­sib­il­ity to the city of Bo­ston,” Yan­cey told the Bo­ston Globe in re­marks pub­lished in a Sunday ed­it­or­i­al.

Bo­ston Uni­versity has cri­ti­cized the ra­tionale be­hind the coun­cil meas­ure, ar­guing that the labor­at­ory’s se­cur­ity is strin­gent and any sens­it­ive re­search jus­ti­fied by the need to pre­pare against leth­al dis­ease agents.

A four-year risk study “con­sidered hun­dreds of pos­sible scen­ari­os that could po­ten­tially res­ult in an ex­pos­ure of a work­er to a patho­gen, or the re­lease of a bio­lo­gic­al agent [and] demon­strated con­clus­ively that BSL-4 labor­at­or­ies — built with mul­tiple backup re­dund­an­cies for its op­er­a­tions sys­tems — are ex­tremely safe,” the uni­versity said in a state­ment last month.

Sunday’s Globe ed­it­or­i­al sides with the school, and ar­gues that the site’s loc­a­tion would fa­cil­it­ate col­lab­or­a­tion with ex­perts throughout the re­gion.

“It’s un­der­stand­able why crit­ics of the bio­lab might prefer that the re­search take place in an isol­ated fa­cil­ity … [but that] would im­pede sci­ent­ists’ abil­ity to learn from one an­oth­er,” the news­pa­per said.

What We're Following See More »
FIRST WOMAN NOMINATED BY MAJOR PARTY
Hillary Clinton Accepts the Democratic Nomination for President
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"It is with humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for president," said Hillary Clinton in becoming the first woman to accept a nomination for president from a major party. Clinton gave a wide-ranging address, both criticizing Donald Trump and speaking of what she has done in the past and hopes to do in the future. "He's taken the Republican party a long way, from morning in America to midnight in America," Clinton said of Trump. However, most of her speech focused instead on the work she has done and the work she hopes to do as president. "I will be a president of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving, the successful," she said. "For those who vote for me and for those who don't. For all Americans together."

COUNTER-CHANTS AT THE READY
Protesters Make Good on Threat to Disrupt Speech
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Supporters of Bernie Sanders promised to walk out, turn their backs, or disrupt Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, and they made good immediately, with an outburst almost as soon as Clinton began her speech. But her supporters, armed with a handy counter-chant cheat sheet distributed by the campaign, immediately began drowning them out with chants of "Hillary, Hillary!"

SUFFOLK POLL
New Survey Shows Clinton Up 9 in Pennsylvania
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."

Source:
$500 MILLION PROJECT
Obama Library Heading to Jackson Park in Chicago
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Barack Obama has chosen Jackson Park, a lakefront park that once hosted the world’s fair on the city’s South Side, for his $500 million presidential library, according to a person familiar with the matter."

Source:
THREE NIGHTS RUNNING
Democrats Beat Republicans in Convention Ratings So Far
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."

Source:
×