Boston Biolab Defeats Bids to Ban Deadliest Microbes

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 15, 2014, 8:46 a.m.

Bo­ston Uni­versity over­came two bids to pre­vent a down­town site from study­ing some of the world’s dead­li­est bio­lo­gic­al agents, the Bo­ston Her­ald re­ports.

The Bo­ston City Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day voted down a pro­pos­al to pro­hib­it loc­a­tions in the city from car­ry­ing out “Biosafety Level 4” stud­ies, which can in­volve dis­eases for which there are no known cures. The meas­ure tar­geted the Na­tion­al Emer­ging In­fec­tious Dis­eases Labor­at­or­ies, a 6-year-old site where Bo­ston Uni­versity wants to con­duct such re­search.

The chief pro­ponent of the re­search ban de­scribed the coun­cil’s 8-5 de­cision as a let­down.

“Many oth­er sur­round­ing com­munit­ies have banned [Biosafety] Level 4 re­search to pro­tect their res­id­ents from a po­ten­tial risk,” said Coun­cilor Charles Yan­cey, who sub­mit­ted an or­din­ance to pro­hib­it the sens­it­ive sci­entif­ic ef­forts.

“I don’t be­lieve that the city of Bo­ston is pre­pared to deal with an emer­gency res­ult­ing from the re­lease of a patho­gen,” he said.

Mean­while, a uni­versity ad­min­is­trat­or praised the coun­cil’s de­cision.

“At the end of the day it was the safety meas­ures and the se­cur­ity of the build­ing that car­ried the vote,” Michelle Con­salvo, as­sist­ant vice pres­id­ent for gov­ern­ment and com­munity af­fairs, said in the school pub­lic­a­tion BU Today.

Also on Wed­nes­day, a state court re­jec­ted a loc­al chal­lenge to a Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health find­ing that the labor­at­ory con­sti­tutes a re­l­at­ively in­sig­ni­fic­ant haz­ard to the sur­round­ing area.

“When as­sess­ing the risk … the re­port as­sumed that in each scen­ario, everything that could go wrong would go wrong,” Suf­folk County Su­per­i­or Court Judge Janet Sanders wrote in her rul­ing. “It then cal­cu­lated the risk that this could hap­pen us­ing a spe­cif­ic meth­od­o­logy.”

The labor­at­ory must still ob­tain au­thor­iz­a­tion from the Bo­ston Pub­lic Health Com­mis­sion to con­duct Biosafety Level 4 re­search.

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