“Contagion, the just released film by director Steven Soderbergh, traces a flu-like virus as it jumps from animals to humans, creating a deadly pandemic. Contagion is unique in that it has earned acclaim from both movie critics and members of the scientific community, a group that often criticizes Hollywood for producing unrealistic movies about lethal viruses. While there were some scenes of social disintegration and violence that seemed unrealistic, the storyline actually follows rules of science and epidemic disease. As a result, Mr. Soderbergh has, in large part, met his goal of making Contagion “ultrarealistic” by seeking the very close counsel of scientists and public health leaders including Dr. W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University and Laurie Garrett of the Council on Foreign Relations.”
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- February 10, 2012
Continuing Assistance to the National Institutes of Health on Preparation of Additional Risk Assessments for the Boston University NEIDL, Phase 3
In 2003, the Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) was awarded a $128 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build one of two national maximum-containment laboratory facilities for pathogen research. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) are meant to support the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases biodefense research agenda, conducting research to develop new approaches to treating, preventing, and diagnosing a variety of bacterial and viral diseases. The facility includes a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) containment laboratory housed in a 192,000 square foot building. Although the NEIDL BSL-4 laboratory accounts for only 13 percent of the building s total space, it has been the source of virtually all of the community concern surrounding this project. The location of the facility on Albany Street in Boston’s South End, which is an environmental justice community, has been controversial, and there have been numerous public meetings over the plans for the facility as well as three legal actions challenging the project.
Continuing Assistance to the National Institutes of Health on Preparation of Additional Risk Assessments for the Boston University NEIDL, Phase 3, the fifth in a series of reports about the proposed facility, provides further technical input on the scope and design of any additional studies that may be needed to assess the risks associated with the siting and operation of the NEIDL. This report presents comments and questions on a 90 percent , or penultimate, draft of the revised risk assessment. According to the report, the 90 percent draft of the risk assessment is a substantial improvement over past documents reviewed. Additionally, the report makes recommendations to improve the version that is ultimately prepared for public comment.
- December 22, 2011
“In the aftermath of the mousepox experiment and amidst controversy over other innovative work, (Harris, 2007) CISSM launched a multiyear effort aimed at trying to address two key questions: What types of dual-use biotechnology research pose the greatest potential danger? How can we manage the risks from such research without impeding scientific progress? To help answer these questions, CISSM has held numerous workshops in the United States with leading experts from the scientific community, academia, public health and industry. It also has sought to raise awareness on the dual-use issue and to obtain feedback on its ideas through a series of regional workshops that have been held around the world.”
By Elise D. Harris
- June 27, 2011
“In an effort to encourage productive discussion of [dual-use] and its implications, this monograph discusses an oversight process designed to bring independent scrutiny to bear throughout the world without exception on fundamental research activities that might plausibly generate massively destructive or otherwise highly dangerous consequences. The suggestion is that a mandatory, globally implemented process of that sort would provide the most obvious means of protecting against the dangers of advances in biology while pursuing the benefits. The underlying principle of independent scrutiny is the central measure of protection used in other areas of major consequence, such as the handling of money, and it is reasonable to expect that principle will have to be actively applied to biology as well.”
By John Steinbruner, Elisa D. Harris, Nancy Gallagher, Stacy M. Okutani
- June 27, 2011
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the coordination of federal research and development (R&D) efforts to develop nonmedical technology related to chemical and biological (CB) defense, focusing on: (1) federal programs that conduct nonmedical CB defense-related R&D; and (2) the existing mechanisms for coordinating these programs.
- January 15, 2012