March 11, 2005
Congressman Michael Capuano (D-8th) announced today that a distinguished committee of scientists, independent of Boston University, is being established to advise and oversee safety at the Level 4 National Biocontainment Laboratory.
In a letter sent on March 3rd to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease), Congressman Capuano proposed that an independent advisory committee be established, with a mandate to review and oversee safety procedures at the lab. In submitting this proposal, the Congressman wrote: "I ask that this group be given a clear and explicit mandate to advise and report regularly to the NEIDL and to BU, to NIAID/NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others you may find appropriate on safety procedures in the Level 4 facility, and specifically, to verify that the procedures are actually followed."
Today, NIAID informed Congressman Capuano that plans for an "independent oversight committee are moving forward" and that this committee will be written into the charter of the National Biocontainment Laboratory (NBL). Eight distinguished scientists, including four Principal Investigators from regional Centers of Excellence, have agreed to serve on the committee. They are drawn from the Harvard Medical School, the Medical Schools of Duke University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Massachusetts School as well as the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Fauci's letter contained the assurance that Boston University "welcomed" the Congressman's suggestion that the Committee's responsibilities explicitly include "oversight of safety procedures."
"I am encouraged by this news today. I have met with many of my constituents, both opponents and supporters of the biolab. Although I am a supporter of the biolab because I do believe that it will lead to scientific advancements and economic activity, the safety of my constituents is my first priority. I want to be certain that my constituents are as protected as humanly possible from exposure to dangerous pathogens. I want them to be safe and, of equal importance, to know that they are safe," stated Congressman Mike Capuano, whose district includes the proposed NBL.
Congressman Capuano has consulted with many internationally respected biomedical researchers about safety issues. They concurred in their advice that BL4 labs worldwide have operated for decades with excellent safety records. Congressman Capuano also worked with faculty at BU to confer on safety procedures planned for the new facility.
Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208