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Jackson tries again to keep BU biolab from ramping up research on world's deadliest pathogens

Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) today called on the council to try to prevent Boston University from beginning work on particularly nasty microorganisms at its Albany Street biolab, by amending city ordinances to prohibit such research.

The facility is currently awaiting approval from the Boston Public Health Commission.

Jackson, also running for mayor this year, raised the spectre of deadly germs escaping the facility just a mile from Dudley Square, home to the busiest bus depot in New England - and the impact on neighboring Boston Medical Center should it be forced to treat a biolab researcher infected with a deadly communicable disease.

Jackson, who has tried before to block deadly germs from Boston, asked his fellow councilors to imagine "a UPS truck picking up a package of ebola and delivering it to Albany Street, which is one of the most densely parts of the City of Boston."

Rather than working on potential bioterror weapons, Jackson said, BU - and the Boston Public Health Commission - should be working on trying to help the people who are sick today, such as the addicts along Albany Street.

Councilor Bill Linehan (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown, Bay Village) opposed Jackson's bid. He said not facility in America has undergone more regulatory oversight than the BU facility and that the research it will do could save "millions and millions of lives."

The measure now goes before a Council committee for a hearing before the council votes on it.

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Comments

But it's too full of stupid that it already picked up from Tito's house to be able to fit a box of ebola in it.

Also, in what world is Albany St "one of the densest parts of the city"?? If you look at Boston from space, the entire Newmarket/South Bay section that the biolab butts up against is so barren and full of giant warehouse roofs that it's obviously bald compared to the rest of the city let alone something like Copley or DTX with it's oh...25+ story buildings on every corner.

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Mi Mi Mi Mimi Meeeeeeeee.

The Ebola in a UPS truck could be one of the saddest bits of political pandering I've heard in hours.

I hope Tito understands that you have a better chance at getting hurt by a junkie while you are waiting for the 23 at Dudley than you do from some bug at the biolab, right?

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Humans are horrible at classifying risk. Transportation injury/death is by far the largest risk any of us face besides nature medical conditions but it gets mostly ignored. You're more likely to be stuck by lightening then killed by a terrorist in the US but yet we spend trillions worrying about that problem.

It's far more likely someone will get hurt slipping on a wet floor in the new Biolab building then the public be exposed to an infectious pathogen.

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"a UPS truck picking up a package of ebola and delivering it to Albany Street, which is one of the most densely parts of the City of Boston."

Ya, hate to have the ebola package dropped off on the wrong door step...

Look, I'll defer to swirl on this one, but I can go out on a limb with what little knowledge I have about this.
First, this building is 'old'. It's years in the making. A veritable ton of money has been spent on it and it's state of the art. I think there's maybe four like it in the US.
Second, it's secure. Really friggin secure. Really. Oh, the windows aren't bullet proof, they're basically bomb proof. The inside has a negative pressure system for air circulation. If it springs a leak, nothing goes out, outside air comes in. The filtering system makes N95 look like the filter on my car. I think.
Third...you want to fix ebola? You need a lab to experiment on how to kill the little bastards. You have a problem with MRSA? You need Vancomycin. You got a problem with vancomycin resistant?
You need this building.
Is it in the ideal spot? I dunno, but I can argue that the 'brain trust' in this area is second to none. If outside consultation is needed, well, it's in a good place.

"Rather than working on potential bioterror weapons, Jackson said, BU - and the Boston Public Health Commission - should be working on trying to help the people who are sick today, such as the addicts along Albany Street."

Um, maybe some sort of new tuberculosis? This building can help the addicts. It's what its there for.

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Say what you will about Councilor Jackson, but at least he doesn't fall for BU's PR like some other politicians have. It looks like he's aware of the hundreds of documented issues around bio "safety" labs. Some news snippets:

Newly disclosed CDC biolab failures 'like a screenplay for a disaster movie'
June 2, 2016

Encased in spacesuit-like gear needed to protect them from the world’s deadliest viruses, four scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped into their lab’s decontamination chamber where a shower of chemicals was supposed to kill anything on them and make it safe for them to exit into an adjacent changing room.

But the shower wouldn’t start, and warning lights appeared as a cascading series of safety systems began to fail inside one of the world’s most advanced biosafety level 4 labs. That's the highest level of containment and security, reserved for work with deadly Ebola and smallpox viruses and other pathogens that lack vaccines or reliable treatments.

The gasket seal around the exit door to the changing room deflated to the point that the scientists could see light coming in. And as they held that door shut and started an emergency chemical deluge, things got even worse.

The shower’s door back into the infectious disease lab “forcefully” burst open again and again – and they couldn’t even hold it shut. Meanwhile, air pressure alarms were blinking and monitors displayed the lab as “red,” according to records of the February 2009 incident recently obtained by USA TODAY under a Freedom of Information Act. The CDC took 3 ½ years to fulfill the request. Read more

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Inside America's secretive biolabs: Investigation reveals hundreds of accidents, safety violations and near misses put people at risk
May 28, 2015

Vials of bioterror bacteria have gone missing. Lab mice infected with deadly viruses have escaped, and wild rodents have been found making nests with research waste. Cattle infected in a university's vaccine experiments were repeatedly sent to slaughter and their meat sold for human consumption. Gear meant to protect lab workers from lethal viruses such as Ebola and bird flu has failed, repeatedly.

A USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that hundreds of lab mistakes, safety violations and near-miss incidents have occurred in biological laboratories coast to coast in recent years, putting scientists, their colleagues and sometimes even the public at risk.

Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.

Of particular concern are mishaps occurring at institutions working with the world's most dangerous pathogens in biosafety level 3 and 4 labs — the two highest levels of containment that have proliferated since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Yet there is no publicly available list of these labs, and the scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks. Even the federal government doesn't know where they all are, the Government Accountability Office has warned for years. Read more

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Nearly 400 Accidents with Dangerous Pathogens and Biotoxins Reported in U.S. Labs over 7 Years
October 3, 2011

Some 395 reported "potential release events" of "select agents" occurred in U.S. government laboratories between 2003 and 2009, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported. "Select agent" is government-speak for a biological agent or toxin that is considered to pose "a severe threat" to human, animal or plant health—or livestock and agricultural products. Special approval from the government is required to handle these agents and toxins, and that can only happen in specially equipped labs. Read more

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These reports being used to argue and frighten that "we're safe until we're not" are exactly why these incidents aren't more publicly transparent.

Nearly all of these incidents described in these links were situations where the control systems in place CAUGHT the event in progress and recorded it. That means the systems are working. They are examples of how something happens in violation of a protocol or guideline, and a separate process that checks the other one catches that the other one wasn't followed. That's how we know something happened to be reported.

But then you get a sensationalized article or blog or politician who comes along and pulls together all these instances of the system working and they say "OMG, 400 incidents in 7 years! What if the next one isn't caught!". People start panicking, shutting down funding, and making even greater problems out of fear rather than rational decisions.

And since you aren't looking to get a job at a BSL-4 lab, you're happy to say things like "we can't allow this to happen here!". But if I showed you a compilation of all the risks to the rest of us when you get into a car, you'll say "Whatever, I have to get to work somehow". Basically, nobody should work on deadly diseases in Boston, because you're worried about a small risk that you might get infected in the case of a major incident and numerous safety levels failing...but the rest of us should deal with the much larger risks to ourselves letting you own a car? These things need to be kept in scope. A BSL-4 lab opening in Boston isn't the opening scene of "24 Days Later". In fact, the research in that lab may even be what keeps that true due to the more likely scenario that a traveler from another country brings a disease with them that we need to contain.

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I was ready to throw support behind Jackson but these comments make him sound like the old tired, townie, hack politician.

we need new and outside blood to run this city. enough of these life long residents that haven't traveled west of 495.

isn't the center for disease and control in the middle of a dense city? and that is much larger than this place.

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Yep. The CDC is <5 miles from downtown Atlanta.

The military's equivalent at Fort Detrick is a bit more remote - but not much, being smack dab in the middle of Frederick, Maryland, surrounded on all sides by suburban sprawl.

These types of research facilities are ALWAYS in big cities, because you need the supporting infrastructure for them to function. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to stick some place like this out in the middle of a desert? You'd have to provide on-site for all utilities, then you'd have to construct the necessary transportation links, plan for emergency services, etc. And then where would you house the scientists and all the support staff working there?

Nevermind the fact that this facility is being run by Boston University, who would logically like it to be in Boston for their own convenience, so that staff working there can also still work at BU itself, and their other labs and facilities at BUMC.

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Nevermind housing the scientists and staff, first you'd have to somehow convince them to move to the middle of nowhere. Plenty of great research going on in places (most) people actually want to live.

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You'd also have to convince them to quit their other jobs. The reason the lab is located there is because all the people working in it also work at the other medical research institutions in the neighborhood.

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Rather than working on potential bioterror weapons, Jackson said, BU - and the Boston Public Health Commission - should be working on trying to help the people who are sick today, such as the addicts along Albany Street.

ahahahah what?? holy shit. is this the level of scientific literacy the council is serving up? does Tito realize that the kind of people who work in these labs spend years if not decades becoming hyper-specialized in their area of work, and would probably have as much idea how to help methadone mile as the regular morning crew at the corner Dunks. hell, Sully at the Dunks probably has some better ideas.

the biolab is not going to suddenly change focuses, totally renovate their building, and become outpatient therapy. the biolab will just not upgrade, continue the work they do now, and lose talented (highly paid! highly taxed!) people and grant money to some facility in some other state.

this is embarrassing. Boston is supposed to be a high tech, educated, city on the hill, and Tito is a moron.

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please see my comment above.

but i wont go as far as "moron" but we could really use some new blood in this city.

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You guys need to give Jackson more credit.

He knows exactly what he's doing. He's not stupid, nor is he ignorant. He's pandering to the ignorant and exploiting their fears. This is just like what Republicans did two years ago with the Ebola panic when they criticized Obama for not banning travel from Africa. It's a very old political tactic: "there's this thing that you people don't understand, but IT'S BAD AND YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF IT. Vote for me and I promise I will protect you from it."

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They've only been trying to get this place open for the BS-4 stuff for like, 10 years now.

As a former BPHC-er, I can assure Tito that there are A LOT more resources going to addiction services, homeless programs, health equity, and preventative care than to the BU lab, and I'm pretty sure that the BU lab doesn't want to build "potential bioterror weapons" since those are, you know, illegal.

Tito should probably learn a bit more about the quasi-city agencies before he runs for mayor.

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Isnt the morgue on Albany street?

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the office of the chief medical examiner is on albany street.

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I always confuse Tito with Jermaine. Anyway, he sure looks good for his age.

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Tito Jackson, as someone with particular expertise concerning pharmaceuticals and laboratory work, knows keenly how much of a threat Boston University is imposing on Roxbury, as well as the greater Boston community, through the Level 4 biolab on the campus of Boston Medical Center. This lab is not needed. Level 4 research can now almost entirely be done on computers using artificially constructed electronic pathogens. The lab is outmoded before it even starts. The LIVE pathogens it will use (anthrax, ebola, plague) are going to be allowed to be weaponized - "gain of function" authorization will allow BU to take already incredibly dangerous pathogens, many of which have no cure, and make them even more dangerous. The entire plan is foolhardy and should be stopped. The Boston mayor as well as the City Council could easily ban Level 4 research as a number of cities including Cambridge. Brookline and Arlington have done. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has been working with community residents to oppose this lab since 2004. The lab now has all the approvals it needs, including from the CDC (which has had numerous breaches at its OWN labs). The Boston Public Health Commission now has the power to give or refuse final approvals. They have NO expertisr in Level 4 (they are public health folks--they know how to discourage smoking, teen pregnancy, weight gain. Period) Please call your city councilor and encourage him or her to ban the Level 4 lab. Thank you. Mary Crotty MA Nurses Association.

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Where in God's name are you getting all this stuff?

"Tito Jackson, as someone with particular expertise concerning pharmaceuticals and laboratory work..."

Really? He knows a lot about it? Is that why he's blathering about "imagine UPS delivering a package of Ebola?" That doesn't sound like someone who knows what he's talking about, unless of course he's just a liar who's counting on his constituents knowing nothing about it as he deliberately tries to frighten them.

"This lab is not needed. Level 4 research can now almost entirely be done on computers using artificially constructed electronic pathogens."

Right. So the folks at BU decided, "hey, let's just go out and spend all that money building this thing for no good reason"? All the money they spent building the facility could have been spent on hiring more researchers instead if the facility itself wasn't needed. So why would they do that?

"The LIVE pathogens it will use (anthrax, ebola, plague) are going to be allowed to be weaponized "

You LIE.

"authorization will allow BU to take already incredibly dangerous pathogens, many of which have no cure..."

The whole point of this facility is TO FIND CURES, or find ways of controlling the spread of these diseases.

"...and make them even more dangerous."

Another absolute lie.

Tito Jackson sounds like a Republican right now. He's using baseless fearmongering, trying to convince people who don't know better that there's something they should be afraid of and if they vote for him he'll promise to protect them from it. I'm starting to think you're a campaign staffer trying to help him. Shame on you for exploiting the fears of the ignorant, just like Republicans did during the Ebola panic and just like they're doing now with Muslims.

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Tito Jackson, as someone with particular expertise concerning pharmaceuticals and laboratory work

I'm sorry, what credentials does Tito Jackson have regarding anything remotely relevant to this? He has a BA in History, which is not at all relevant.

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