Building on biosecurity testimony

October 14th, 2009

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The fear that the anthrax attacks stirred in the fall of 2001 is not a distant memory to political leaders on Capitol Hill. On Sept. 22, 2009, Michael Greenberger, founder and director of CHHS,  delivered testimony on the prescient issues of biosecurity and governance of our Nation’s high containment laboratories to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.  The Subcommittee is leading Congressional review of the security of the laboratories that conduct research on dangerous biopathogens including anthrax, ebola, foot and mouth disease, just to name a few. The request for testimony gave me, along with CHHS staffer Dr. Marita Mike and CHHS research assistants Elizabeth Murrary, Christopher Webster, and Meaghan McCann, the opportunity to delve deeply into the complex web of statutes and regulations that protect not only those who work in these labs, but the general public from the threat of biological attacks and potential misuse of these toxic agents.

The testimony was well received by Subcommittee Chairman Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) as well as co-panelists Honorable Robert Graham, former U.S. Senator from Florida and current chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, and Dr. Nancy Kingsbury of the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Professor Greenberger engaged with Senator Cardin and the panelists in a lively discussion about how to reform the regulatory system to better protect citizens from the potential misuse of dangerous agents while not compromising the life-saving and empowering research that is conducted in these labs.

On the heels of this success we continued our work on the issues and produced an article that will be published in the upcoming winter volume of the DePaul Journal of Health Care Law.  The article is entitled “Governance and Biosecurity: Strengthening Security and Oversight of the Nation’s Biological Agent Laboratories.” The authors are indebted to the law students who worked diligently to help make the testimony and the article shining examples of the Center’s significant and timely scholarship.

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