NIH completes final risk assessment of BU biolab

The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently issued a report concluding that research involving dangerous pathogens at a Boston University laboratory poses negligible risks to the surrounding community.

The 1,700 page NIH final report concerning the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on the BU Medical campus comes after eight years of debate, legal challenges and repeated scientific analyses.

The NIH commissioned the report under an advisement panel of 16 experts who looked at the risk posed by both lab accidents and malevolent acts. The lab is now a major step closer to approval for expanded research at Biosafety Levels 3 and 4.

"This is a milestone," Stephen Burgay, BU's senior vice president for external affairs, said. "It is not the final step in the approval process. This will allow us to go to the regulators and courts and ask for the certification needed for research at other biosafety levels."

The risk assessment examined the likelihood and consequences of 300 events in terms of the risk of infection or release of pathogen studied at the facility. The NIH found that safeguards built into the facility, the low amounts of present pathogens and the culture of biosafety and training make the danger to the surrounding community extremely low.

Burgay said that no classified or secret research will be conducted at the laboratory and all of the lab's projects will be described on the NEIDL website. BU hopes the completion of the report will allay fears about the facility with regard to safety issues.

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