You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Red Sox Live

2

3

▲  7th Inning 2 outs

editorial

BU biolab’s passing grade on risk evaluation should reassure skeptics

It is unlikely that the decision by the National Institutes of Health that the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory, known as the Boston University biolab, “poses very little risk to the public” will change the minds of Boston neighbors who oppose it. But the federal government’s conclusive assessment, performed by scientists and technicians who work with the same dangerous pathogens to be studied in parts of the lab, is a reassuring step. It sets essential standards to ensure the safety of the community in the years to come.

There is no denying that the lab’s request to work with level-3 and level-4 agents — such as the West Nile virus, SARS, and ebola — has some risk. The review admitted that reaching a level of “no risk” is an impossible standard, but concluded that the potential that a deadly pathogen would in any way endanger the community is “very low, to only remotely possible.”

Continue reading below

The important security measures insisted on by the federal review include special clearances for those working with the pathogens, secure transport of dangerous materials, required pre-approval for any potentially dangerous research by the federal Biosafety Committee, and ongoing inspections by BU, the city, the state, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The BU biolab is already open, but its potential work with these dangerous materials can help expand Massachusetts’s leadership in medical and health research. These biological agents need to be studied so that, in the real world, any outbreaks can be identified and treated. While lawyers continue to fight the lab on safety grounds, the conclusions of the NIH panel undermine their claims. The focus now should be on ensuring that when the biolab opens to level-4 agents, it will always be as safe as it will be on day one.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.