News of the WeekBiosecurity

Lawmakers Signal Tougher Controls on Pathogen Research

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Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_28b

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Since the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, new biocontainment labs have sprung up around the United States as part of a massive national effort to counter bioterrorism threats, but a crescendo of concerns over the security of these labs, voiced by lawmakers and experts at two congressional hearings last week, threatens to slow the booming biodefense industry. Both hearings featured testimony from Nancy Kingsbury of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose agency released a report on 21 September that calls for entrusting a single federal entity with determining whether any more biocontainment labs are needed; what standards of design, maintenance, and operation such labs must meet; and how they should be overseen.