House oversight subcommittee reports on safety of bioresearch labs

A U.S. House oversight subcommittee recently reported on the safety of bioresearch labs. | Courtesy of Shutterstock

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has released a report on its investigation of allegations that a bioresearch lab in Maryland mishandled vials of smallpox.

The issue was expected to be discussed Wednesday during a hearing with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials on Capitol Hill.

The subcommittee's report calls for further investigation into each agency's handling of potentially dangerous biological agents, including antibiotic-resistant anthrax and antibiotic-resistant plague. According to the memo, research facilities have failed to conduct regular inventories of hazardous materials, account for the whereabouts of vials of hazardous materials and restrict access to the hazardous materials.

“There’s a problem when the government somehow loses track of smallpox and other deadly agents, only to have them turn up in a soggy cardboard box,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy said in a joint statement. “What’s worse, the urgency that should accompany such a discovery has failed to spur absolutely necessary changes. Today serves as an important opportunity to ask some of the agencies in question about their next steps to ensure safety for those working in the labs, as well as the general public.”

The Government Accountability Office also raised the issue in its own report.

The subcommittee is expected to call for a full internal investigation by both the FDA and NIH.

Organizations in this story

U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce 2125 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

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