An effort to halt the funding and construction of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) being built by Boston University Medical Center was put on hold last Friday, when a federal judge ruled that construction can continue at least until an ongoing environmental review is completed. The decision, by U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris, stated that it was not in the public interest to enjoin funding and construction of the $178 million Biosafety Level-4 lab at this time. The judge also rejected the plaintiffs’ effort to prevent BSL-2 and BSL-3 research from being conducted at the lab.
The lawsuit, brought by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), had asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent the National Institutes of Public Health (NIH) from continuing to fund the project. The CLF argued that the federal government did not adequately investigate the risks of the lab or alternative locations for it before giving its final approval.
The October 20th decision ties the progress of the lab to further review of worst-case scenarios by the NIH, similar to those required by a separate state court ruling issued in July. Those reviews are expected to be completed in four to six months.
Todd Klipp, general counsel for
The NEIDL will house a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab for research on dangerous microorganisms, including Ebola and botulism. Because it will be located in a densely populated urban neighborhood, it has been a source of controversy ever since September 2003, when the NIH’s National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) awarded
In response to safety concerns,
The Boston Redevelopment Authority Board gave its approval to the lab in December 2004, and the Boston Zoning Commission gave its approval in January 2005. BU officials estimate that the facility will create more than 1,300 construction jobs and more than 600 permanent jobs and that it will bring in $1.6 billion in federal research and construction grants over the next two decades.
For frequently asked questions about the NEIDL, click here.