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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
ALL 100 SENATORS
Dem Senator Calls North Korea Briefing “Sobering”
34 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
SAYS CLINTON ADMINISTRATION BASICALLY GOT IT RIGHT
Pai Announces Plans to Roll Back Net Neutrality
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Even as he acknowledged the importance of an open internet, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday set his telecom agency on a course to scrap the tough, broad net neutrality protections imposed by the Obama administration. During a major speech in Washington, D.C., Pai outlined the need for a total revision of existing federal rules that seek to prevent companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon from blocking or slowing down web content, including the movie or music offerings from their competitors." Separately, Pai told Reason's Nick Gillespie that the Clinton Administration "basically got it right when it came to digital infrastructure. We were not living in a digital dystopia in the years leading up to 2015."

Source:
WILL ANGER CONSERVATIVES
White House to Continue Paying Obamacare Insurers
2 hours ago
BREAKING
LOFTY GOALS
White House Proposes New Tax Plan
2 hours ago
BREAKING

The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

Source:
ORDERED BY PRESIDENT
DHS Launches Office for Victims of Crimes by Immigrants
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement today established the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE), as called for in a presidential executive order from January. The new office's website states that its staff "will be guided by a singular, straightforward mission—to ensure victims and their families have access to releasable information about a perpetrator and to offer assistance explaining the immigration removal process."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login