Scientific panel holding BU biolab hearing in Boston

By Stephen Smith (From The Boston Globe), April 27, 2010

A blue ribbon panel of scientists advising the federal government on Boston University’s controversial high-security research laboratory will hold a hearing tomorrow night in Boston’s Copley Square.

The session is scheduled for 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Ave., in Salon F.

The panel is advising the National Institutes of Health on how to improve its environmental safety review of the lab project, which sits complete but not operating in the South End on BU’s medical school campus.

The board was convened in 2008 after the National Research Council, an independent board of scientists, issued a report sharply critical of the federal government’s earlier safety reviews of the BU project. The facility, largely underwritten by NIH, is designed to allow researchers to work with the world’s deadliest germs, including Ebola, plague, and Marburg.

South End and Roxbury residents have taken to the streets and the courts to protest the project. While state and federal judges allowed construction on the $200 million project to continue to completion — it includes both a high-security Biosafety Level-4 lab, as well as other research facilities — they mandated further safety reviews before it could open for research.

An outside contractor is conducting a new safety assessment of the lab, and NIH says tomorrow’s meeting is designed to update residents on the status and approach of that study.