BioLabs

  • BiolabsCDC to review oversight of bioterror labs as concerns grow over lax supervision

    Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, has ordered a review of how the agency oversees and implements safety and security measures in bioterror laboratories across the country. Documents obtained through FOIA request show that dozens of labs handling the most dangerous bioterror pathogens have time and again failed to comply with key safety and security measures, but CDC inspectors allowed these labs to operate for years before offering to put them on a “performance improvement” plan. Even when inspectors identified significant violations of safety or security practices in work with “Tier 1” select agents – the deadliest of bioterror weapons — the agency only “strongly recommend[ed]” the labs stop work with the pathogens, but without mandating it.

  • BiolabsLawmakers demand answers on labs’ handling of deadly pathogens

    The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from both parties yesterday sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services demanding answers regarding the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP). “Select agents” is the term used by the government for viruses, bacteria, and toxins that could be used by terrorists. The committee members directed ten questions to the HHS IG in an effort to learn details about labs that have been fined or faced other enforcement actions, including suspension or revocation of their federal authorizations to work with select agents. “So far we’ve been lucky, but that luck may run out if we don’t get the system fixed,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-New Jersey).

  • BiosafetySafety concerns dog new Level 4 Biolab being built in the middle of Tornado Alley

    The new Department of Homeland Security’s(DHS) animal pathogen-research facility, a Level 4 Biolab being built in Manhattan, Kansas and aiming to replace the aging New York’s Plum Island lab, is situated in the middle of Tornado Alley, leading researchers and security experts to question the wisdom of the decision to build it there. Why place a lab in which research is conducted on pathogens for which no cure or treatment has yet been found – fir example, foot-and-mouth disease – not only in an area known for being routinely hit by powerful tornadoes, but also in the middle of a region where most U.S. cattle is being raised?

  • AnthraxNo government agency oversees handling of deadly pathogens in 1,495 U.S. labs

    According to the CDC, 181 “organizations or entities” in the United States are registered as working with live anthrax, and 321 in total working with live pathogens. Within these 321 entities, roughly 1,495 laboratories are accredited under the Federal Select Agent Program to work with live pathogens such as anthrax. There is no official government agency to oversee production and research of bioweapons that does not – as the CDC does — engage in its own active pathogen research. “Even one spore is a sufficient seed stock from which an amount could grow to mount a biological weapons attack,” says one expert. “The sad circumstance is that this massive effort [U.S. research on anthrax] since 2001 has dramatically increased the chances of a biological weapon attack on the U.S., precisely by distributing a highly lethal strain of the agent with no structure and no ability to record where they have gone.”

  • AnthraxPentagon, CDC investigating live anthrax shipping mishap

    Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has announced that the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating the recent accidental shipment from a U.S. Army laboratory in Utah of live bacterium anthrax samples to fifty-one facilities in eighteen states and three foreign countries. The investigators have already identified the West Desert Test Center (WDTC), the testing area for Dugway Proving Ground, as the source of the mix up.

  • Bioweapons51 labs in 17 states may have received live anthrax samples: Pentagon

    Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said yesterday (Wednesday) that the Pentagon may have shipped live anthrax samples to fifty-one labs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. Word also said that it was likely that the numbers of labs which might have received live anthrax will go up as the Pentagon’s investigation into the shipments continues. All the samples shipped belonged to three lots, dating back to 2007, stored at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. CDC raises questions about the effectiveness of the method used by the Dugway lab to deactivate anthrax spores.

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  • BioweaponsPentagon accidentally ships live anthrax from Utah to labs in nine states

    The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday admitted it had accidentally shipped samples of a live anthrax spores – a potential bioweapon — across nine states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea. The Pentagon revealed what it described as an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis” from a DoD laboratory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah to labs in nine states. The mishap alarmed biosafety experts. “These events shouldn’t happen,” said one.

  • BiolabsGroundbreaking for new Biosafety Level 4 lab in Kansas

    Officials on Wednesday broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a $1.25 billion animal research facility near the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF will be the U.S. only Level 4 biosafety lab – a designation which means that the lab is secure enough to handle, and conduct research on, pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. Critics argue that locating the lab on the campus of KSU — in the heart of cattle country and the middle of Tornado Alley – would not be a good idea. NBAF will replace the aging biolab in Plum Island, New York.

  • BiolabsDHS S&T awards $834 million contract for construction of Manhattan, Kansas biolab

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the award of a contract for the final phase of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. The $834 million award by S&T’s procurement support partner, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), modifies the existing contract for McCarthy Mortensen NBAF Joint Venture, which was selected in 2009.

  • BiosafetyKeeping biotechnology research safe

    Increasingly, scientists across the world and in the Unites States are reporting new and groundbreaking innovations in biotechnology with transformative implications in human health and environmental sustainability. While these technologies are developed in laboratories, researchers are not only giving utmost consideration to the potential beneficial impacts but also to a new set of potential risks arising in synthetic biology research. It is crucial that scientists employ the highest level of safety measures within the laboratory to prevent any unintentional effects on human health or environment. The Wyss Institute is developing a proactive biosafety process to review all proposed biotechnology research and manage potential risks pre-emptively.

  • BiolabsK-State animal health expert selected to lead NBAF strategic partnership effort

    The Department of Homeland Security has selected Marty Vanier, the K-State’s director of operations at the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, to be the senior program manager for strategic partnership development at the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF. Vanier will start her new responsibilities with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate this month. Construction on the $1.25 billion animal disease research laboratory will begin in May and is expected to be completed in 2020. The lab is on the northeast edge of Kansas State University’s Manhattan campus.

  • BiolabsEscape of deadly bacteria at Louisiana bio-research facility raises concerns

    Weeks after federal and state officials launched an investigation into how the burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria which causes life-threatening disease Melioidosis, escaped a laboratory at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana, another investigation is now looking into how a veterinary clinic worker might have been exposed to the bacteria.Tulane was conducting vaccine research on the bacteria in a laboratory that requires a biosafety level 3 rating — - the second highest security level.

  • BiolabsNBAF-focused research already underway at K-State U, ahead of level-4 biolab opening

    Although the remaining funding for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, was recently finalized, work on the federal livestock research facility has continued to move forward in recent years — including Kansas State University conducting research which will help jump-start future operations at NBAF. NBAF will be DHS’s premier foreign animal disease research lab. It will research high-consequence livestock diseases that threaten animal and human health. The $1.25 billion lab will be on the northeast edge of K-State Manhattan, Kansas campus. NBAF is anticipated to begin operations in 2022 or 2023. Construction of the facility’s central utility plant is more than 90 percent complete.

  • Biolabs2014 saw potentially serious safety mishaps at U.S. biolabs

    U.S. government laboratories working with potentially deadly biological agents have had to deal with several lab incidents in the past two years.Congress and federal officials have called for better enforcement of safe operating procedures at U.S. government labs. “There is a continued lack of national standards for designing, constructing, commissioning and overseeing” these labs, said a Government Accountability Office (GAO) expert.

  • EbolaKlain defends CDC protocols after lab technician’s potential exposure to Ebola

    The Obama administration’s Ebola czar, Ron Klain, yesterday (Sunday) defended the security procedures of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after a technician at one of the agency’s labs in Atlanta was potentially exposed to the deadly disease. The CDC has been criticized earlier this year not only for its response to the Ebola outbreak and Ebola cases within the United States. Numerous safety violations and lax procedures have been reported in the CDC’s labs and in the manner the agency’s technicians transport lethal pathogens, including anthrax and botulism bacteria, from one lab to another.