Biosafety Programs for Government Agencies in Baltimore and Washington DC
July 28, 2015—Gregory Demske, Chief Counsel to the Inspector General in testimony before a US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee delivered a shocking statement. Since the passage of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigated 68 Select Agent Program enforcement concerns involving 53 unique organizations, all based on requests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings are absolutely staggering:
- 30% of the organizations referred to the OIG were federal entities.
- 33% of these federal entities received Notice of Violation Letters from the OIG.
- 17% of the OIG identified violations occurred at federal laboratories.
Since 2004 the number of commercial, federal, academic and private biological containment labs has skyrocketed by over 260%. If you believe the United States government is tracking the activity of each lab, you are, unfortunately, sadly mistaken. The problem gets much more complex, as globally, there is virtually no reliable tracking in place.
The Government Accountability Office recently warned Congress that the increased number of containment labs is leading to greater risk of dangerous mistakes, accidents and outright sabotage. This admonition is warranted as the GAO states in their 2014 report entitled Recent Incidents of Biosafety Lapses “…the oversight of these laboratories is fragmented and largely self-policing.”