Biodefense panel concerns rise after release of national laboratory study

Leadership of the Blue Ribbon Study Pannel on Biodefense released a response to an in-depth investigation into the safety standards of national laboratories that work with dangerous and contagious pathogens on Thursday.

Among the findings from the "Inside America's secretive biolabs" report from USA Today's Network Investigation team are safety violations that could be potentially harmful to lab personnel and to the public surrounding laboratories. According to the report, many lapses in safety had been uncovered in biosafety level 3 and 4 facilities, where many deadly pathogens are studied — including drug-resistant bacteria, the Ebola and Marburg Viruses and anthrax.

"This report highlights a much larger weakness in biodefense policy," Blue Ribbon Panel Co-Chair Tom Ridge said. "It is difficult enough to determine what bio threats our enemies may be developing overseas. So we must ensure that we strengthen federal biosecurity policy to reduce the risk of bioterrorism, biological warfare and the illness and death caused by devastating outbreaks at home and abroad."

Many violations in safety can be attributed to poor coordination, lacking transparency measures and funding insufficiencies. Both the article and the panel response point to a lack of oversight on the part of the government that allows incidents in laboratories to be kept away from the public and government.