Boston mayor Menino gives tour of BU biolab

Boston's mayor Thomas M. Menino led a tour of a biolab at Boston University on Tuesday, accompanied by two dozen civil and neighborhood leaders, in an effort to allow them to better understand proposed hazardous research.

The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, a 192,000-square-foot high-security biolab, has been tied up by regulatory reviews and legal challenges for years. The National Institute of Health plans to schedule a public hearing to determine whether to allow researchers to study dangerous germs at the South End site, the Boston Globe reports.

"This type of high level research is a complement to the city's medical hub," Menino said, according to the Boston Globe. "The work that will be done there will help save lives in the future. I think BU has gone above and beyond on the security measures."

The lab has largely been unused three years after construction was completed. Some environmental and neighborhood groups have argued that the densely populated part of the city near the Boston Medical Center is not a safe or appropriate place for scientists to be working with lethal germs like the plague and Ebola virus. Environmental officials in the state granted preliminary approval in December, allowing the lab to open for less hazardous biomedical research.

The university plans to use approximately 16 percent of the building as a biosafety level-4 lab for work with the most hazardous substances. The plans will be examined by an NIH environmental safety review that was originally scheduled for February. The NIH has postponed the meeting to allow time to finalize the draft report and no date has yet been scheduled.