Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Biodefense, Biolabs & Bugs: Council Takes Important First Step

Seattle, WA – 06/04/10 - With a growing number of high-containment biolabs operating in Seattle neighborhoods, commends the Seattle City Council for its unanimous support of a resolution urging the State of Washington to set standards for biosafety laboratories.

“Seattle is quietly becoming a hotbed of the U.S. Biodefense program with work on dangerous pathogens taking place right under our noses.” said Mike McCormick of

In 2005 the University of Washington abandoned plans to build a new Regional Biocontainment Laboratory to house its current biodefense program. Individual citizens, businesses and neighborhood organizations opposed siting a complex that worked on dangerous infectious diseases in a densely populated neighborhood. During public hearings UW representatives stated there were over 30 similar labs at the UW and “five or six scattered thoughout the Seattle area, many in South Lake Union”. Since that time, more labs have been built in SLU.

Contrary to lab proponents, accidents and safety failures at labs are not unusual. Numerous investigations (including at UW) find an ever-increasing incidence of serious problems as the number of biolabs and personnel exponentially increase. A 2009 GAO report titled “High-Containment Laboratories: National Strategy for Oversight is Needed” states “even laboratories within sophisticated biological research programs—including those most extensively regulated—have had and will continue to have safety failures.”

Last year the University of Washington helped create a second Regional Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Pacific NW, making this area the only region in the country with two biodefense programs.

“At the same time that the UW is decommissioning half it’s high-containment biolabs due to deficiencies, it’s expanding its biodefense program. We need a vigorous citizen debate before the University of Washington goes any farther on its work with ebola, avian influenza and the recreated 1918 influenza.” says McCormick.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

US military flu virus collection parallels WHO virus system

Bogota, 26 Nov (Edward Hammond*) -- A large and rapidly growing global US military virus collection system parallels the World Health Organization's Global Influenza Surveillance Network (WHO GISN) but does not entirely share its public health purposes.

The US military system is a source of viruses for the WHO GISN; but it does not give most of its virus collections to WHO. It does keep all the lab specimens and viruses it collects for its own use.

Wider knowledge of the extent of the US military virus collection system and its ambiguous relationship to the WHO GISN system will raise important questions for the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Inter-Governmental Meeting (PIP IGM), which will convene in Geneva the second week of December.

The extent of the Pentagon's quiet but large virus collecting and its relationships with the WHO GISN will surprise many. For example, the Pentagon claims credit for having collected several important influenza viruses that were subsequently selected by WHO for use in seasonal and H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccines from 2000 through the present, including viruses from Panama, Peru, Nepal, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Some developed countries, including the United States, have insisted that developing countries only share influenza viruses with the WHO GISN and not bilaterally with others. Yet, contradictorily, the United States has a massive military influenza virus collection program, but only provides a very small percentage of the materials that it collects to the WHO.

It is unclear if and how viruses collected by the US military in other countries would be covered by a WHO GISN material transfer agreement because they are obtained and transferred outside what is now- understood to be the WHO system.

If one WHO Member State unilaterally amasses influenza viruses without full participation in the WHO access and benefit sharing system there is strong potential for the WHO system to be undermined.

Also undefined is the legal status of a virus received by the WHO system; but not from an approved lab of its country of origin - a situation that now frequently occurs due to the activities of the US military virus collection system.

The US military system is active globally, including at least 56 countries where it is collecting influenza viruses (as of 2007). The system pulls in clinical specimens and locally isolated viruses that are shipped to the United States. It provides some of these viruses to the WHO GISN network, mainly through the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), a WHO Collaborating Centre in Atlanta, Georgia (and part of the US health ministry), but keeps all specimens and viruses for its own purposes.

The size and capacity of the US military program is dramatically expanding and has more than doubled in recent years. In 2005, it was active in 30 countries and included three BSL-3 labs and a total sample processing capacity of 9,000 specimens per year. By 2007, the network was active in 65 countries and included eight BSL-3 labs and the capacity to process 18,000 samples annually.

The network is named the US Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections Surveillance & Response System ("DoD-GEIS"). A DoD-GEIS program called the US Department of Defense Worldwide Influenza Surveillance Program focuses specifically on flu viruses.

The military network has "sentinel" sites around the globe, reported by US military sources to include 128 or more locations. These are installations where US military personnel are based, as well as collaborating non-military sites that collect samples from US personnel and local civilian populations.

In 2006-2007, the system collected influenza viruses from developing countries including:

-- Americas: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.
-- Africa: Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
-- Middle East: Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Oman.
-- Central/South Asia: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
-- Southeast Asia/Oceania: Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands.

A US Air Force lab at Brooks City Base in San Antonio, Texas coordinates the system. In 2006 and 2007, its systemwide budget was over $40 million per year. In the 2006-2007 flu year, the Texas lab alone processed 5,810 specimens from persons across the globe suspected to have respiratory infections. Of these, 2,444 tested positive for a respiratory virus, including 1121 positive for influenza virus. According to the US Department of Defense (DOD), "All original specimens are archived and kept for requests from [Department of Defense] partners or the CDC."

Another lab at a US Navy facility in San Diego, California processes an unknown number of additional samples. Of note, the Navy lab systematically isolates flu viruses from military personnel who become infected during port visits. Using this unusual collection method, in 2007, it isolated seasonal influenza viruses from countries including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands after US Navy ships docked there and US sailors became infected while ashore.

Including the Navy lab and other facilities (see below), the military system handled an overall total of approximately 8,000 influenza and other viral cultures in 2007. Of these, only a small percentage are given to CDC. In 2006, this number was 120 viral isolates (about 1.5%), meaning that over 98% of the viruses collected by the US military program do not enter the WHO system.

In addition to the CDC, collected viruses (especially H5N1 viruses) are provided to US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. USAMRIID is the historical home of the US offensive biological weapons program (terminated in 1969), and is presently the headquarters of the US military's biological defense effort. Drawing on viruses collected by the US military and WHO sources, as of 2007, USAMRIID maintained a collection of thirty different H5N1 strains plus many other flu types that it uses in research and provides to other US military labs.

According to the program, the primary purpose of the virus collection system is to ensure US military readiness: "The principal objective is to enable the rapid discovery of novel strain mutations that could trigger a pandemic and to monitor these strains for their ability to transmit and to causedisease... the priority of the DoD is to maintain readiness and protect the health of service-members and beneficiaries, the contributions from the [San Antonio-based] surveillance program also benefit the greater global health community."

Five overseas laboratories operated by the US Department of Defense act as regional coordination centres for the collection effort. The five labs are:

-- Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2 (NAMRU-2) in Jakarta, Indonesia.
-- Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt.
-- Naval Medical Research Centre Detachment (NMRCD) in Lima, Peru.
-- Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in Bangkok,Thailand.
-- United States Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya (USAMRU-K) in Nairobi, Kenya.

With the exception of NAMRU-2, which was recently closed by the Indonesian government, each of the above labs works not only in the country in which it is located; but also in nearby countries, where laboratory and personnel detachments are sometimes placed.

NMRCD operates a high containment (BSL-3) lab in Peru, and coordinates virus collections in several South and Central American countries and, for example, has staff in Guatemala. In 2007, it reported that it is seeking to expand virus surveillance efforts in Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

AFRIMS in Bangkok operates a BSL-3 lab and, in addition to work in Thailand, maintains a facility in Nepal and collects samples from other countries in the region. In total in 2007, AFRIMS collected over 1,000 respiratory samples from seven countries in Southeast and South Asia.

NAMRU-3 in Cairo has at least BSL-3 capability and collects human and animal influenza viruses. It is a WHO GISN H5 reference lab, submitting viruses both to other US government labs as well as WHO labs. NAMRU-3 maintains activities in many African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries, from Ghana eastward all the way to Pakistan.

It states that in 2007, "From Egypt, 141 human specimens were received for influenza A/H5N1 reference testing, and 26 specimens tested positive for H5N1. H5 reference testing was performed on 459 animal specimens, with 92 positive for H5N1 from Afghanistan, Egypt, and Ghana." From these H5N1 isolates, MANRU-3 deposited HA gene sequence information for 74 strains in GenBank.

USAMRU-K in Nairobi collects virus samples from hospitals and Kenyan military facilities and says that it is developing collection capabilities through universities in Uganda and Cameroon and the Nigerian defense ministry. Flu viruses it collects are provided to the CDC and the US military.

Until the Indonesian government closed it, NAMRU-2 in Jakarta played a similar role, including coordinating US laboratory detachments in Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos. In 2007, it says that it collected and tested more than 4,500 respiratory samples in Indonesia alone. It is unclear what will happen to NAMRU-2's activities outside of Indonesia now that the Jakarta laboratory has been closed.

Other US military BSL-3 labs in the network are located in Germany and South Korea. The DoD-GEIS network also collaborates with the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), although the exact nature of the collaboration has not been publicly described.

Despite the Pentagon's claims that it has frequently contributed to WHO vaccine strain selections, none of the negotiating texts or background documents made available by WHO in the course of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Inter-Governmental Meeting have discussed the large US viruscollection system that parallels the GISN, much less explained the relationships between the two.

Nevertheless, the purpose of the US military system does not wholly coincide with WHO's public health ends, and its activities at times do not appear to be compatible with most proposals for a revised WHO GISN virus and benefit sharing system.

The massive US military virus collection system, which parallels the WHO system yet does not currently operate under the same rules, creates an additional complication for diplomats seeking an agreement on virus and benefit sharing. Its extent and different purposes than the WHO system may also be of concern to some countries, particularly because WHO system virus sharing is for public health and not military purposes.

Efforts should be made to ensure that all virus collection and transfers take place within the WHO system, using a WHO material transfer agreement, and that virus collections for purposes other than public health not be permitted.

(* Edward Hammond is an independent researcher and an expert on patents and biological resources. He contributed this article to SUNS.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Statement on the U.S. Biodefense Program from Communities Living in its Shadow

We, the undersigned, face the reality or prospect of federally-funded high containment “biodefense” labs being built and operated in our communities. We all have specific, local health, safety and environmental concerns about these labs existing in our midst. We represent citizen groups from around the U.S., united in our belief that the massive proliferation of “biodefense” laboratories creates a significant threat not just to our communities, but also to our nation, and to our world. We join Biological Weapons Convention non-proliferation experts in concluding that we risk creating a biowarfare arms race with those who do not trust and cannot verify our intentions. The proliferation of these labs makes us all less safe.

Since the August 2008 revelations about the 2001 anthrax letters originating from within the premier U.S. “biodefense” lab, it has become tragically clear that Congress must move quickly to investigate the nation’s “biodefense” programs.

We have many concerns about the proliferation of bio-safety level 3 and 4 laboratories in federal complexes, and in the hundreds of poorly regulated academic and private sector laboratories around the country.

 In each of our communities, we have found that environmental impacts and hazards associated with these labs have not been analyzed with thoroughness, clarity and scientific rigor. It is not possible to mitigate unacknowledged risks.

 Our experience is that State and local governments have not been well integrated into lab planning and operations.

 We are concerned about the threats associated with genetically modified pathogens and dual-use research.

 We are most concerned about supposedly “low-probability” but “high-consequence” accidents that could result in a public health disaster.

 Now we also know that the possibility of internal sabotage is quite real. We have been told officially that both the “weaponized” anthrax and the perpetrator of the only bio-terror attack in our history came from within the U.S. “biodefense” program.

 We are sobered by the fact that since the anthrax letter attacks, the number of workers in these labs has grown from a small number to over 16,000; laboratory space has grown tenfold.

 Numerous laboratory accidents have been reported. It is plain that many others go unreported, as demonstrated by the unreported accidents discovered by non-governmental watchdog groups.

 It has become clear that laboratory regulation and oversight are poor.

 Transparency has been lacking.

 The GAO and others, such as the Sunshine Project, report that safety programs and protocols are inadequate and have not been followed with consistency and rigor.

Since 2001, “biodefense” funding has provided a $57 billion economic boon, much of it for the private sector. “Biodefense” programs are spread among many federal departments, but are frequently duplicative and poorly coordinated. We have seen no evidence of an integrated federal policy, still less one openly debated by Congress.

Congress must investigate current research and development priorities, funding levels and research requirements in relation to verifiable threats to human and livestock health. Our country needs a fact-based assessment of biological threats, both natural and man-made.

In 2005, more than 750 scientists, including Nobel Prize-winners, decried the diversion of funds to “biodefense” programs away from vital and pressing human health research of broad applicability.

We are aware that intense debate is taking place within the scientific community about whether or not much of the new “biodefense” research is relevant to or would be effective in protecting the population against a biological attack. At the same time, funding has been cut for local preparedness against potential natural or lab-generated outbreaks. These issues are equally present in the debates taking place about the enormous high-containment agricultural research laboratory complexes proposed for some of our communities.

The size and research agenda of the U.S. “biodefense” program has become out of control in the wake of the 2001 anthrax letters. Who decided it was an acceptable risk to genetically re-create and work with the formerly extinct 1918 flu virus, no matter how interesting that research may be? There are far too many comparable examples.

We need a national moratorium on “biodefense” research and, simultaneously, a serious and transparent reevaluation of the big picture. We need a great many more answers before our government pours yet more money into these programs and creates new public health risks and international strain.

Consistent with standard procedures for other federal science programs that pose potential threats to health and safety, we call upon our elected representatives to:

 Conduct a thorough independent investigation of the executive policies that have driven the unprecedented expansion of “biodefense” research and development since 2001; and

 Call an immediate halt to development of new “biodefense” facilities and an operational stand-down of existing programs until the many serious questions have been resolved, including those related to:

- public safety,
- biosafety and biosurety compliance,
- laboratory regulation,
- research focus,
- select agent use and control,
- dual-use research,
- a right-sized program and
- appropriate locations for high containment laboratories.

Signed September 17, 2008:

Organization Contact LAB

Boston Coalition to Stop the BioTerror Lab
Klare Allen, Lead Organizer
Safety Net, Roxbury MA

Dr. Vicky Steinitz, Co-coordinator of the Greater Boston Committee of the
Coalition to Stop the BioTerror Lab,

Angela Kelly
Massachusetts Peace Action, Cambridge, MA

Claire Gosselin, Co-Chair, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Greater Boston Branch

Mike Prokosch
Dorchester People for Peace

Tony Palomba, President
Ernesta Kraczkiewicz, Planning Committee Member
Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety
Watertown, Massachusetts

Duncan McFarland
United for Justice with Peace
Boston University, NEIDL; BSL-4 and BSL-3 Labs (NIH)
Boston, MA

Ellen Browne
Grafton, MA Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine,
Tufts University, Grafton, MA
BSL-3 labs, BSL-4 ready (NIH)

Frederick Citizens for Bio-lab Safety
Beth Willis
National Interagency Biodefense Campus, Fort Detrick;
BSL-4 and BSL-3 labs (USAMRIID, DHS, NIH) Frederick, MD

Granville Non-Violent Action Team (GNAT)
Kathryn Spann
NBAF, proposed site at Butner, North Carolina; BSL-4 and BSL-3 labs (DHS)

No NBAF in Kansas
Dr. Thomas R. Manney, Chair of No NBAF, and Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics and Division of Biology, Kansas State University
NBAF, proposed site at Manhattan, Kansas, at Kansas State University; BSL-4 and BSL-3 labs (DHS)

Mid-Missouri Branch of WILPF, (No NABAF in Columbia, MO)
Therese Folsom
Columbia, MO 65203
University of MO, BSL-3 lab; and formerly proposed site for NBAF, Columbia, MO (NIH)

Tri-Valley Cares
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director
Robert Schwartz, Staff Attorney
BSL-3 facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA (DHS)

Labwatch - Seattle, WA
Mike McCormick -
WWAMI Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease, Seattle, Washington, BSL-3 labs (NIH)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Labwatch 2007 Year-end Wrap-up

Time for a wrap-up of the past years biolab related news. Below are the
major themes that emerged this year with related article links.

U.W. on probation
In February in anticipation of documents being released to the public,
the University of Washington leaked to the press that their animal
research programs had been put on probation during November of
the previous year. The nine page report listed numerous violations,
many stemming from the UW’s lack of maintenance dating back more
than 20 years. Additionally the report identified a lack of internal
oversight of the UW's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

UW on probation for animal lab violations - Seattle PI 02/13/07
"Serious deficiencies" in UW's animal care - Seattle Times 02/13/07
Animal Testing: Increase oversight - Seattle PI 02/15/07

Labs being built in SLU at record pace
While local papers discuss businesses like Amazon moving to South Lake
Union, they choose to downplay that more high-containment biolabs are
being built next door to the neighborhoods condos and grocery stores.

Biotech projects spring to life - Puget Sound Business Journal 01/19/07
Betting on biotech adding more room - Seattle Times 04/24/07
Water gushes in South Lake Union area after road crew breaks main -
Seattle Times 04/25/07
Developer buys Cascade block for $22 million - Seattle-PI 05/10/07
Children's Hospital eyes South Lake Union site for $40M - Seattle
Business Journal 05/11/07
Growth spurt for Children's - Seattle Times 05/18/07
Children's Hospital acquires Denny Triangle tower - Seattle Times

Citizen opposition to biolabs spreading across U.S.
Across the U.S. citizen groups are forming in opposition to existing and
proposed biolabs. From Boston to Berkeley and Seattle to Durham,
citizens are organizing vocal opposition to building dangerous labs in
their communities.

City Objects to BU Biolab Building Harvard Crimson 01/10/07
Biolab security issues gain attention at coffee - Tonganoxie Mirror
Dunn says ‘No’ to facility - The Badger Herald 04/25/07
In-Depth: Not in Dunn’s backyard - Badger Herald 05/03/07
Biotech protest draws modest turnout - Boston Globe 05/07/07
Boston Residents Face to Face with Bio-War - Inter Press Service
UW, town in tiff over lab turf - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 05/21/07
Cattlemen end support for biolab - The Missourian 07/03/07
Detrick opponents call for end to growth - Frederick News Post 08/26/07
Judge's remarks irk BU biolab opponents - Boston Globe 09/06/07
Some sure, some not, of lab's safety - Athens Banner-Herald 09/15/07
Residents Voice Concerns Over Bio-Defense Lab - WRAL Raleigh 09/18/07
Hundreds turn out for BioLab hearing - South End News Boston 09/20/07
The battle against the bio-lab - Independent Weekly 10/10/07
Biolab faces new scrutiny from state - Boston Globe 10/14/07
Facing down 'big dogs' on NBAF site - Athens Banner-Herald 10/14/07
Scientists spar at BioLab hearing - South End News Boston 10/25/07
Group Demands Full Report on Impact of Livermore Lab Bioterrorism
Research Facility - The Daily Californian 11/01/07
Biolab protest creates horrific scene - The Daily Free Press Boston 11/08/07
Biodefense lab causing qualms - Baltimore Sun 11/19/07
Public discusses Fort Detrick lab expansion - Frederick News Post 11/20/07
Commissioners split on Detrick review - Frederick News Post 11/28/07
Experts 'Fail' Risk Analysis for Boston Bioterror Lab - Washington Post 11/29/07
US review of BU biolab inadequate, panel finds - Boston Globe 11/30/07
Menino says biolab ’will go forward’ - Boston Globe 12/12/07
SJC upholds biolab ruling requiring further environmental review -
Boston Globe 12/13/07
Ruling may stall opening of biolab - Boston Globe 12/14/07
Not sound, not credible - Frederick News Post 12/17/07
Butner lab foes step up efforts - The News & Observer 12/18/07
Biolab protesters appeal to Durham - The Durham News 12/22/07
Doctors Take Different Stances on Biodefense Lab in Butner -
WRAL Raleigh, NC 12/25/07

Texas A&M Biodefense program shut down (for now)
In July Texas A&M had their biodefense program shut down by the CDC
for a long list of previously unreported violations. Documents dug up by
The Sunshine Project ( and released to the
public revealed multiple exposures to lab personnel over a period of
four years. This marks the first time that a federally funded biodefense
program has been shut down by CDC.

A&M faces inquiry over brucella infection - The Eagle 04/18/07
A&M under investigation after disease transmission - The Batt 04/24/07
CDC probes A&M bioweapons infections - Dallas Morning News 06/27/07
CDC investigates A&M - The Battalion 06/28/07
CDC suspends A&M research on infectious diseases -
Dallas Morning News 07/01/07
A&M admits errors in bioagent case - Dallas Morning News 07/03/07
A&M lab employee lacked clearance in bioagent case -
Dallas Morning News 07/28/07
Texas A&M admits violating rule - Bryan-College Station Eagle 07/28/07
A&M research chief steps down amid bioagent lab furor -
Dallas Morning News 08/01/07
CDC reprimands Texas A&M over lab safety - Dallas Morning News 09/04/07
CDC finds breaches at A&M disease lab - Houston Chronicle 09/05/07
A&M biosafety director resigns in wake of CDC report -
Dallas Morning News 09/05/07
Second Texas A&M research official resigns amid biosafety report -
Dallas Morning News 09/06/07
A&M chief vows to fix lab troubles - Houston Chronicle 09/07/07
Until this year, CDC missed worst of A&M lab problems -
Dallas Morning News 09/25/07
Ex-Texas A&M head of biodefense research, Richard Ewing, dead at 61
- Dallas Morning News 12/06/07
A&M unsure when federal ban on its biodefense research will be lifted -
Dallas Morning News 12/27/07
A&M biodefense work still banned - Houston Chronicle 12/28/07

Accidents much worse than previously reported
An investigation by the Associated Press revealed in October that U.S.
biolabs had more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003,
and that numbers were increasing steadily as more labs began biodefense

U.S. labs mishandling deadly germs - Associated Press 10/02/07
Mishandled Germs - Associated Press 10/02/07

Congress holds hearing on biolab proliferation
In response to the U.S. biolab building boom combined with the unreported
lab accidents and mishaps, Congress held hearings in November.

House panel asked to look at biowar labs - UPI 07/31/07
Biosafety lapses prompt govt. review - The Scientist 09/25/07
No snap inspections at high-level germ labs - Associated Press 10/04/07
U.S. Called Lax at Policing Labs Handling Biohazards - New York Times 10/05/07

Proposed regulations for Seattle biolabs
In 2005 the Northeast District Council recommended that the City of
Seattle establish citizen oversight of existing labs. In response we now
have a proposed set of regulations for biolabs, based on those successfully
adopted in Boston.

What can you do?
Your individual support can be the difference between a city filled
with unregulated high-containment biolabs versus a city where citizens
make the decisions that affect their health and safety. Though regulations
are not the end-all solution to neighborhoods dealing with potentially
hazardous facilities, we believe it’s an important first step in bringing back
citizen oversight and control to our community. Please ask groups you
belong to (especially neighborhood councils) to endorse our proposed

Sunday, February 25, 2007

University of Washington on Probation

Earlier this month the UW made the news when they were put on
probation by AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation
of Laboratory Animal Care) for not maintaining their animal research
facilities and not exercising proper oversight over animal research
experiments. Though extensive review of UW documents is ongoing,
here are some highlights from the nine page report that was released
to select local media in mid February 2007.

The report focused on the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use
Committee), the oversight group for animal research at the University
of Washington. Basically they are the “police” for animal research.
Their two primary tasks are to review protocols (research
experiments) and to inspect animal research facilities at the UW. As
such, items in the report focused on UW facilities and areas where
the IACUC failed to do its job.

Under the category of facilities and what should have been identified
during regular IACUC inspections, the report states;

“Serious deficiencies that had the potential to negatively impact the
well-being, and safety of animals and humans were not being
identified during
the facility evaluations.” (p. 2)

“Deficiencies that were identified were not classified as significant or
and no time frame for corrections were detailed.” (p. 2)

“none of the laboratories where animals were housed had emergency
or environmental alarms.” (p. 3)

“The primate center had no mechanism in place for alerting key staff
and eliciting a response if there was an HVAC failure.” (p. 7)

“There was no after hours mechanism for monitoring heating,
and air conditioning system performance in Guthrie,
Hitchcock, Kincaid,
Fish Teaching Research Facilities (as well as
the campus based WaNPRC
mentioned above) and alerting
personnel to malfunctions.” (p. 7)

Questionable procedures within the labs were also cited;

“In a number of laboratories, personnel areas (e.g., refrigerator for
employee workstations) were immediately adjacent to and/or
with animal housing and procedural areas and personal
vehicles were used
to transport mice.” (p. 5)

“At the Western Primate Facility, one hallway located outside of Room
(office), 125 (break room), and 115 (dirty cage wash) was divided
by a taped
line. One side of the line was considered a Biosafety Level
(BSL) 2 nonhuman
primate area requiring full personal protective
equipment (PPE). The other side
of the taped line was used by
personnel to enter offices and a shared break room.
No PPE was
required on this side of the taped line. Personnel that were passing

through the hallway to the break room without the benefit of PPE
were exposed
to SHIV-infected nonhuman primates and dirty
nonhuman primate cages that
were transported in the same hallway.
Other than a taped line on the floor
demarking entrance to a BSL-2
area, there was no physical separation between
monkeys and personnel carrying their lunches to the break area.”

(p. 4)
(Authors note - This is the same facility that was going to be
upgraded for work on the 1918 influenza virus (currently being
worked on at other facilities). Due to numerous problems Western
has yet to begin work on the upgrade that began in 2003).

“At the time of the site visit, there was no pre-employment medical
or ongoing evaluations, for those employees who were
subject to substantial
risk in the animal care and use program, such
as employees of the Department
of Comparative Medicine who would
be routinely exposed to allergens in
ergonomic inquiries.”(p. 5)

Finally, the UW IACUC itself was cited for numerous problems with it’s
lack of process, objectivity and transparency;

“Out of approximately 250 new/renewed protocols submitted each
approximately 1 - 3% of the protocols were brought up for full
review.” (p. 8)

“The vast majority of protocols were reviewed by four permanent
reviewers. Of these individuals, 3.5 were funded through
the Office of Animal
Welfare with three of those members having
performance evaluations made by
the Director of the University’s
Office of Animal Welfare. Given their salary
source, these reviewers
could be perceived as having a conflict of interest
impeding their
ability to perform unbiased protocol reviews.” (p. 8)

“The participation of the nonaffiliated member of the IACUC in protocol
programmatic review process was not readily apparent and/or
recorded for many of the protocols or semiannual facility
reviews evaluated
by the site team. Chronic nonattendance by IACUC
members, especially
those explicitly required by Public Health Service
(PHS) Policy or U.S.
Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare
Regulations (AWRs), implies
a lack of participation in the oversight
responsibilities of the IACUC.” (p. 4)

“Minutes of the IACUC meetings did not reflect actual content of
discussions regarding full Committee reviews of protocols or
deficiencies.” (p. 8)

At this point in time, the UW has until May 1, 2007 to demonstrate to
AAALAC how it proposes to fix the problems cited in the report. It
should be noted that the UW received the report on November 1, 2006
and only choose to release the information to the public in February
2007 in anticipation of FOIA document releases to PETA and Labwatch.
Had citizen organizations not made those requests, it is reasonable to
assume the University of Washington would never had informed the

Monday, January 08, 2007

Labwatch End of Year Update

As 2006 comes to a close and we begin 2007, it appears that Seattle
will never have to worry about a shortage of BSL-3 labs in our

As of this writing and yet to be added to the map are
a total of six more labs. Three are already existing labs, two that are
under construction and one additional already existing lab that needs
to be confirmed. The three already existing labs are Zymogenetics in
SLU, the Western Fisheries Research Center at Magnuson Park, and
the Roosevelt Commons on the 4300 block of Roosevelt Ave. In
addition, there are two being built in SLU, one at 815 Mercer by Paul
Allen for the UW and another being built on Mercer by a private
corporation. The final holdout is the newly acquired Childrens
facility at 1900 9th Ave.

Back in May we reported that a BSL-3 lab at UW had been shut
down due to faulty air circulation and that early estimates were
$1 million in repairs before it would be back up and running.
Current estimates are over $1.8 M with no report yet on when
the lab will be functional again.

Also in May we reported that more than half-a-dozen UW
scientists working at a new lab on Mercer had "initiated their
studies without getting final approval and without having the
appropriate biosafety cabinets, the appropriate rooms, the
appropriate education, the appropriate paperwork on file and
without the appropriate waste stream". What we didn’t know
then but have since found out is that the UW never reported
these violations to any State or Federal authorities even
though the chair of their Biosafety Committee was calling for
just that. So much for institutional oversight.

And finally it appears that the most dangerous aspects of the
1918 influenza experiments the UW planned for the Western
Ave. Primate Center have for the time being been moved to a
community less demanding of citizen oversight. Several
internal emails indicate Michael Katze was unhappy with the
slow progress of the upgrade at the Western Ave. facility
and has found a new home for that work at the Battelle labs
in Ohio. It should be noted that earlier this week the Dept.
of Homeland Security announced that Battelle will be
running the new Biodefense Analysis Center at Fort Detrick.
Score another one for the military contractors.

And on that happy note, looking forward to a more
democratic and active year in 2007!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Worry About Bird Flu When We Are Bringing The 1918 Influenza To Town?

Seattle reached another milestone this week. From the Seattle-PI to
the BBC, corporate media reported that the UW has been working
with tissues from mice infected with the 1918 influenza virus and
versions of the influenza virus specially engineered to include
segments from the 1918 strain. It appears that some of the
experiments in question took place in South Lake Union.
Though working with the entire 1918 influenza virus should require
a BSL-4 lab (that work being done at the CDC), working with infected
tissues and the man-made strain appears to only require BSL-3
facilities and the UW has at least two such labs now in South Lake
Union. Since the research grant on 1918 influenza was awarded to
Michael Katze and since the Katze labs are located at the Rosen
Building (a designated BSL-3 facility) it’s safe to say that the
experiments reported this week took place at that facility.
Though this particular phase of research is not nearly as dangerous
future phases that involve aerosolizing the virus on live monkeys
(slated to happen at the Primate Center in Belltown), it is none-the-less
dangerous to those working at Rosen and therefore merits community
Just another indicator that Seattle needs citizen oversight and lab