The National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory (NEIDL) at Boston University has been granted federal approval to work with some of the world’s most dangerous pathogens, after it was decided that the sophisticated laminar flow systems, biological safety cabinets and other measures in place meant there was minimal danger to the public.
However, there are a number of hurdles still to be overcome before the class 3 glove box can be called into action, with local residents understandably concerned about research into deadly diseases like Ebola and SARS being carried out on their doorstep.
Usually referred to as the BU Biolab, the facility is equipped to BSL (Biological Safety Level) 4 – the highest there is. When the lab opened in April 2012, it was for TB (tuberculosis) research. However, while laminar flow devices were used, a non-pathogenic relative of the bacterium was employed, since at that time the lab had only been approved to bio safety level 2.
Now, following an assessment in which the facility was put through its paces by scientists who regularly use Biosafety cabinets to study the same level 3 and 4 pathogens the Biolab personnel will use, the federal government has reaffirmed the conclusion it first came to in 2006 – that the risk of infection is, at most, remote, and therefore medium to high containment research, using small quantities of pathogenic material, can safely be carried out at the BU Biolab.
Two lawsuits and a state review still threaten future developments in Boston, but local residents can rest assured that the stringent Biosecurity measures will ensure that nothing but pure air will pass through the laminar air flow filters when the time comes.