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bioterror bombast

By Greg Harman
gharman@sacurrent.com

Three steps to rethinking the federal germlab/bioterror/agro-defense research compound known as the National Bio- & Agro-Defense Facility...

1) Perry's last-minute effort to grease the machine fails.

Numbskull Perry, months after the approved deadline for greasing special deals with the Feds, tries to raise the state's share of tax breaks to lure the lab in. Feds say, 'Can we see you outside a minute?' Refuse deal as "unfair" to five other sites in the running.

Read Perry and thrust in this week's Queque for more info.

2) UK lab outbreak of foot-and-mouth (the reason U.S. lab has been offshore lo these many years) inspired farmers this week to sue for a share of Her Majesty's coffers.

From the BBC:

The two laboratories at the centre of last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak and the government are to be sued for damages, the BBC has learned.

If the High Court case brought by 14 farmers is successful, the labs and the government could face further claims that could total more than £100m.

The outbreak occurred in Normandy in Surrey at the beginning of August 2007.

Both labs have consistently denied any failure in their duty of care, and the government has denied any negligence.

Apart from anticipated millions in expected damages and death of a potential outbreak, there is the legal course at fuck-up rainbow's end.

3) San Antonio's very own Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, whose long-operating, inscrutable presence here was used to help see Homeland Security on our pueblo for the gem of germwork is a security risk, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.

From The Scientist (sub reqrd):

Two of the five US labs that conduct research on the world's most dangerous pathogens suffer from serious security shortfalls, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) today (October 16).

What's more, the labs were given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) stamp of approval despite these shortcomings, the report states.

The two labs were not named in the report, but the Associated Press did identify the institutions that house the labs as the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas, and Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Only facilities capable of the highest level of biocontainment -- biosafety level 4 (BSL4) -- are allowed to work on a select group of deadly pathogens with no known cure, such as Ebola and smallpox. In addition to the two institutions noted above, the CDC's Atlanta facility, the Army's lab in Fort Detrick, and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston also have BSL4 labs.

The GAO checked the five labs for the presence of 15 security measures which would deter, detect, delay, and deny access to intruders. These features include a physical boundary around the building's perimeter, a manned checkpoint to screen incoming vehicles, and video camera monitoring.

Three of the labs had between 13 and 15 of the measures in place. But the two inadequate labs used just three or four of the security measures, lacking features such as good live camera monitoring and a centralized security point. In one lab (Georgia State, according to the AP), a pedestrian entered the building through an unguarded loading dock during the GAO inspection.

According to legislation passed in 2002, the CDC is required to register all labs that work with a select group of pathogens that are deemed especially contagious or dangerous, or that could potentially be used as bioterror agents. The agency does not proscribe security measures for all intuitions to follow, instead asking each lab to develop a security plan based on a site-specific risk assessment. That policy, the GAO report recommended, should be changed.

Now, check out the lab's response, courtesy of the SA Express: They promise to update security IF the Texas Legislature and Centers for Disease Control tells them to.

“If the Legislature accepts the report and they tell CDC to implement it ... we will meet whatever new requirements there are,” said Jean Patterson, the foundation's director of virology who oversees the lab.

Okay, Jean. Do we REALLY need the Texas Legislature to approve a federal investigation to get you to buy surveillance cameras, or is that just wounded pride talking. How about just doing whatever is right for the community. In my humble opinion and expression of extended understatement: What is right is better safe than sorry.

Posted by gharman on 10/17/2008 11:05:38 AM
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