Few disaster scenarios capture the anxieties of our age like the sudden emergence of a deadly, invisible disease in a vulnerable population. In the anthrax attacks after 9/11, which were never conclusively solved, a biological agent took the lives of victims who had the misfortune of being exposed to the wrong pieces of mail. Films such as “Outbreak” and “Contagion” contemplate the consequences of deadly microbes proliferating with the help of air travel and the health care system itself. These are precisely the kind of events that Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories facility will prevent, but only if it is allowed to do the kind of research for which it was painstakingly designed and constructed.
Next week, a Boston City Council committee will hold a hearing on Councilor Charles Yancey’s proposed ordinance to ban level 4 research at the biolab. To pass such a measure would be to overestimate any danger that the biolab poses to nearby residents — and to retreat from the singular role that Boston plays as the world’s greatest repository of life-saving expertise.