The US Department of Homeland Security’s decision to locate a new national biosecurity laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas, has again come under fire, this time from the DHS itself.
The DHS evaluated the safety of the proposed site, and concluded that there’s a good chance that a highly contagious pathogen could leak from the lab. The report adds to critique of the agency from the US Government Accountability Office, which found that the DHS had initially relied on a flawed risk assessment when deciding the place the $650-million facility at the University of Kansas.
A committee convened by the US National Research Council reviewed the DHS risk assessment and raised some additional red flags in a report today. The proposed lab, which is being built to replace the ageing Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York state, lacks clinical isolation facilities, an early response system and clinicians experienced in diagnosing and treating people exposed to dangerous pathogens, the committee found.
Construction on the new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is supposed to start in 2012, with operations transferred from Plum Island by as early as 2017.