Biodefense lab defends safety measures

Backers of a proposed level four biodefense laboratory on the campus of Kansas State University are disputing a National Research Council assessment that claims a 70 percent chance of a foot and mouth outbreak should the center be built.

Tom Thornton, president of the Kansas Biosciences Authority, told that if the same methodology were applied to existing institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, none of them would have been allowed to be built.

A 12 member team selected by the National Research Council, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, made the safety report public on November 15. The team was lead by Robert Atlas, a professor of biology from the University of Louisville.

The backers of the plan, known as the National Bio and Agro-defense facility, are disputing the committee’s use of a calculation known as cumulative risk assessment. They further criticized the committee for failing to take into account redundancies and standard risk mitigation steps that are built into all such facilities.

"We know what we need to mitigate, and we're going to do that," Jamie Johnston, director of the National Labs Science and technology directorate of Department of Homeland Security, said, according to "Once you apply the mitigation it becomes a very low risk."