Boston BSL-4 lab remains unopened

Controversy is still simmering over a finished but unopened biosafety level 4 laboratory facility located Boston’s Roxbury/South End area.

Opposition to the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory remains strong and has been ongoing since Boston University was granted $128 million for the project by the National Institutes of Health in 2003, according to

The site was set to be one of two high and maximum containment laboratories for pathogenic research on some of the world’s deadliest infections, including the Ebola virus and the plague.

Tetra Tech, the laboratory’s contractor, has come under fire from the National Research Council for the methodology of its risk assessment. The council was asked by the NIH to analyze the risk posed to the public by the location of the laboratory.

In the cover letter of the risk report, the NRC said, according to, “These analyses do not, so far, represent a thorough assessment of the public health concerns raised by the committee in its previous reports.”

An environmental health professor at Boston University, David Ozonoff, has changed his mind about the facility. At first, he liked the idea, but after meeting with colleagues in the field, he told, he changed his mind, noting that the lab was not there to promote public health, but was tied deeply to the biodefense industry.

Public concern is that many of diseases set to be housed in the facility are airborne. Estimates are that there are 25,000 people that live within one mile of the site. If operational, it would be the only BSL-4 level facility located in an urban environment.

The Boston laboratory is not the first NIH funded laboratory to provoke controversy. At Oklahoma State University, a BSL-3 level was shut down due to similar issues. It conducted research on anthrax vaccines and treatments on primates.

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