Boston University receives preliminary approval for biomedical lab

Boston University recently received preliminary approval from Massachusetts environmental officials to open a laboratory for biomedical research on substances that are less hazardous than those that sparked opposition to the project.

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said that making BU wait until it completed the entire review would pose a hardship to the university and would not serve to avoid or minimize potential damage to the environment, according to

The decision said that there must still be an additional public comment period before officials allowed the university to conduct biosafety level-2 research. A 14 day public comment period is scheduled to begin on December 7 with a final decision to be reached within seven days of its ending.

BU said it was pleased with the decision, which will allow it to move ahead with its plans to seek further permits for the facility.

“BU researchers will focus on Tuberculosis and experiments that have been approved for the [biosafety level-2] laboratories,” the BU statement said, reports. “They expect to begin work in early 2012.”

BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, a high-security lab designed to allow students to conduct research on germs like Ebola and the plague, has been tied up amid legal challenges and regulatory reviews.

In the meantime, the 192,000-square-foot facility has remained largely empty. In August, University officials sought a waiver to conduct limited research on less hazardous materials in a biosafety level-2 portion of the lab.

The state’s decision said that BU estimates that it may take up to another year before the final assessment on its plans to open the biosafety level-4 portion of the facility is completed.