Briefing on Oversight of High-Containment Laboratories

On March 12 AAAS in partnership with the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC hosted a public briefing to discuss the current oversight of high-containment laboratories. The session was held to discuss the elements of H.R. 1225, the recently introduced Select Agent Program and Biosafety Improvement Act of 2009. This bill seeks to reauthorize the Select Agent Program by amending the Public Health Service Act and the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002 and to improve oversight of high containment laboratories.
Michael Ehret from the Midwest Research Institute, a private laboratory, Michael St. Clair, from Ohio State University an academic laboratory, and Michael Pentella from the University of Iowa, a public health laboratory discussed the regulatory procedures associated with the operation of each of their facilities. Each spoke about the different agencies and number of inspections or audits that they face each year, the costs of these audits and staff training as well as additional personnel reliability programs in place at their institutions.
All three speakers expressed concern about the number of agencies, each with a unique set of regulations, responsible for oversight of their facilities and suggested that a harmonized approach to regulation was necessary. Each of the represented laboratories also had internal oversight committees to ensure a high level of safety and security.

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