Indian university takes steps to prevent release of bioweapons

The 153-year-old University of Madras in India has installed a radio frequency identification smart card system for researchers and students who use laboratories to increase the lab’s security and monitor personnel movement.  

This comes on the heels of recent concerns of security by the United States about the safety of laboratories in Indian government-run establishments and universities. The concern came to light in a leaked cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in India that was released by WikiLeaks, the Deccan Chronicle reports.

In the cable, officials expressed fears about the lack of security in laboratories in India, which would make the facilities easy targets for terrorists who are seeking biological weapons to start launching attacks throughout the world.

“To avoid entry of unauthorized persons into university labs we will be installing RFID based smart card systems to monitor movement of students and researchers in the facility,” Professor G. Thiruvasagam, the Madras University vice-chancellor, said, according to the Deccan Chronicle. “Without proper guidance from teachers no student will be allowed to work in the lab.”

Vice-chancellor Thiruvasagam also said that the university would periodically conduct an audit to ensure it keeps track of bacteria and other bio-organisms in its labs.

“We need to be sure whether all bio-organisms in the labs are used for research as the US embassy officials fear bacteria and other organisms being taken away from labs for terrorism,” Thiruvasagam said, according to the Deccan Chronicle.