Report on Boston University's
National Emergent Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL)

May 6,2012

Roy Lisker

In April of 2004, an article was published in Ferment. Entitled "The Gilded Age of Biodefense", it described the astronomical increase in funding for "biodefense" research laboratories over the previous year. The Gilded Age of Biodefense.

The final section of this Ferment article is entitled "The Case of the Boston University Medical Center". In September of 2004 it was announced that Boston University would receive a grant of $128,000,000, to build a 7-story biodefense research lab the NEIDL, in downtown Roxbury adjacent to the campus of its Medical Center (BUMC). This laboratory would be designed for biodefense research at all safety levels, BSL1 to BSL4. The latter, BSL4 research, concentrates on the most horrible diseases known to mankind, Ebola, Hanta Virus, Marburg Disease, and others. Even anthrax only deserves a BSL-3 rating.

The Ferment article describes how local political, medical and scientific organizations were able to mount a campaign to prohibit BSL3 and BSL4 research in this facility. One is heartened to learn that, as of this date, this campaign has been successful. Although the construction of the NEIDL headquarters was completed in 2008, 3 court orders have delayed BSL-3 and BSL-4 research in its laboratories. Currently only low level research on tuberculosis is being conducted there.

Adapting to the many protests, complaints and legal actions against the siteing of the NEIDL, the NIH has produced 5 revisions of its mammoth "Risk Assessment" (RA) report on the NEIDL. In 2008 the National Academy of Sciences announced that it could not endorse the then latest version of the Risk Assessment report, citing numerous procedural errors and failure to follow up on various ways in which the public might be put at risk by the presence of the plant.

A "draft version" of the latest Risk Assessment was published in February, 2012. Then Boston University and the NIH announced that a public hearing would be held on April 19, 2012, 6:30 PM at Roxbury Community College. It was open to the public for commentary and debate. To read an account of this meeting, go to: Global Defense

The NIH offered to send, free of charge and upon request, the full 1,756 page Draft Risk Assessment Report on the BU NEIDL,. Although the hearing in Roxbury was scheduled for April 19th, the NIH would receive comments until May 1.

Clearly the very size of the RA was designed to inhibit criticism. That this was clearly a political strategy became apparent at the Roxbury Community College hearing. There it was announced that no comments would be acknowledged that dealt only with the 23-page summary that comes as a supplement to the two enormous looseleaf folders of the RA.

I contacted the NIH in mid-March and received the full RA report within a week. Apart from the many hundreds of pages of technical appendices, the substance of the RA could be condensed to a few hundred pages. A selection of key chapters and appendices was carefully studied. My commentary on them was sent to the NIH in 5 installments; at the same time copies were sent to several politicians and political groups in the Boston area opposed to the operation of the plant.

.docx and .pdf version of this 40-page commentary have been put on Ferment Magazine. It can be read at:

Critique of the NEIDL RA(docx);or (pdf).

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