House hearing aims to address concerns after live-anthrax shipment

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce released an overview of Tuesday's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing regarding the recent accidental shipment of anthrax samples with small amounts of live material, and what can be done to ensure it never happens again.

The hearing was led by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO). In May, it was discovered that anthrax with trace amounts of live spores was shipped to a private laboratory from the Army's Dugway Proving Ground facility in Utah. Other samples from this live batch also were used to fill other shipments sent to labs across the country and to South Korea.

"These dangerous safety lapses at our high-containment labs are threatening our nation’s security and public health,” Murphy said. “This subcommittee will not relent in its oversight of federal laboratories’ compliance with select agent regulations, and will further explore the possibility of an independent agency to oversee these labs.”

Marcia Crosse, health care director of the Government Accountability Office, detailed findings from the office's report regarding the incident. In her testimony, Crosse said safety lapses of this magnitude raise concerns over federal biological labs' competency in managing material of this kind, as well as the procedures that are currently in place.
 
D. Christian Hassell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, was among others providing testimony.

“The department is committed to putting in place the systems (to) ensure that this does not occur again, and will implement the recommendations of the report and the further directives outlined ... on July 23," Hassell said. "Our top priority is the safety of all involved, and we remain fully committed to complete transparency of information," Hassel said in testimony.


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