Update on the National Biocontainment Laboratory (NBL) at Boston University

A planned National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) at the Boston University has taken another step forward.  As posted in the Federal Register on December 18th, 2012:

“The Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has decided, after completion of a Final Supplementary Risk Assessment and a thorough consideration of public comments on the Draft and Final Supplementary Risk Assessment, to implement the Proposed Action, which is identified as the Preferred Alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  This action reaffirms the NIH’s previous decision to partially fund the construction of a state-of-the-art National Biocontainment Laboratory (NBL), the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), at the Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC) in Boston, Massachusetts.”

The original decision to fund the NEIDL came in January, 2006.  Members of the public expressed numerous concerns with the Enviornmental Impact Statement, and state and federal lawsuits were filed.  To address the concerns raised in these lawsuits, the NIH “established an independent Blue Ribbon Panel to advise the agency on comprehensively responding to the concerns raised by members of the community and by the courts.”  A “Draft Supplementary Risk Assessment” was published in the Federal Register on February 24, 2012, and a “Final Supplementary Risk Assessment” was published in the Federal Register on July 6, 2012.  The original decision to use the Boston University location, as opposed to locations in Tyngsborough, MA or Peterborough, NH was upheld, as there were minimal differences to lab workers safety, as well as minimal agent release risk.  The NIH decided that “results of this analysis show that the risk of infections resulting from accidents or malevolent acts at the NEIDL are generally very low to only remotely possible”.

In additional research biosafety news, the Department of Homeland (DHS) signed a land transfer agreement for the construction of a new federal animal research lab near Kansas State University in Manhattan, KA, to replace the existing Plum Island, NY facility.  DHS will acquire 46 acres for the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility.  Facility completion and commissioning is estimated to be finished in 2018, with accreditation and vaccine trials in 2020.  See the press release from the Kansas Office of the Governor.

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