Arguments counter city councilman’s attempt to ban Biosafety Level 4 research
In a discussion whose outcome may determine if Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) will conduct research involving pathogens such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, speakers for and against research at BioSafety Level 4 (BSL-4) faced off last night at a lengthy Boston City Council hearing on a proposed ordinance to ban that level of research in the city. The ordinance was put forth by Councilman Charles Yancey, who told the standing-room-only crowd that he feared that BSL-4 research could pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the community.
While Yancey and several opponents of BSL-4 research tried to persuade the city council to support the ban, proponents, including Barbara Ferrer (SPH’88), director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), and M. Anita Barry director of the BPHC Infectious Diseases Bureau, argued that reliable safety precautions have been put in place. Representatives of the biotech industry also spoke in favor of BSL-4 research, maintaining that banning BSL-4 research would inhibit the growth of life sciences research in Boston.
Ferrer told the council that Boston has the toughest safety regulations on infectious disease research of any city in the country. She said that while there are 15 labs in the country that conduct research at BSL-4, Boston is the only city whose public health authorities regulate the permitting and inspection of the labs. She said the nine labs in Boston that currently conduct research at Biosafety Level 3 are also strictly regulated by the Public Health Commission. Ferrer told the council that her agency has been preparing for BSL-4 research since 2006 and has trained hundreds of police officers and firefighters to respond to potential emergencies.
Gloria Waters, a BU vice president and associate provost of research, told the council that she cares very much about NEIDL not only in her BU role, but also as a person whose family lives in the area. “BU and Boston Medical Center attract researchers and students who want to make the city a safer place to live,” said Waters. “No research will be classified, and details of all research are open for public consumption.”
Ronald Corley, NEIDL associate director and a BU School of Medicine professor and chair of microbiology, emphasized the promise of a research lab that can bring together expertise in many disciplines, such as chemistry, microbiology, and engineering.
“The great discoveries in science these days are coming from these kinds of multidisciplinary efforts,” he said. “The University’s mission is educating the next generation of scientists.” Corley said the mission of NEIDL is to develop vaccines, diagnoses, and therapeutics for emerging infectious diseases. “The NEIDL is not going to produce biological weapons, and it is not going to do classified research,” he said.
Thomas Robbins, chief of the BU Police Department and executive director of public safety at BU, described the elaborate procedure designed to transport pathogens to NEIDL. He said every delivery is tracked with two GPS devices, one on the delivery vehicle and one in the package containing the pathogen. Robbins also talked about extensive background checks, including psychological screening and drug screening, of all NEIDL employees.
Opponents of BSL-4 research at the hearing argued that safety studies of the lab conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were inadequate, and that NEIDL was constructed in “an environmental justice community” without sufficient dialogue with residents. Roxbury-based community activist Claire Allen claimed that BU failed to adequately communicate with local residents during the initial planning stages of the NEIDL construction. “We have never tried to compete with BU,” she said. “We are the most polite protestors in the world.”
Mel King, a longtime community leader and former executive director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston, said the community surrounding NEIDL was never asked if it wanted a biological research lab in its backyard. King, who repeatedly referred to the lab as a “bio-terror lab,” called for ending all research at all biosafety levels.
Mary Crotty, a nurse attorney for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said she had opposed NEIDL since 2005, and feared that local hospitals were not prepared to handle a “surge” of medical emergencies that might result from an accident.
Construction of the $200 million NEIDL facility was completed in September 2008, but controversy and litigation have kept much of the building’s 192,000 square feet of laboratory space closed. The lab is part of a national network of secure facilities dedicated to the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments to combat emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.
Last year, after legal challenges to a NIH assessment of risks associated with BSL-3 and BSL-4 research, US District Court Chief Judge Patti Saris ruled that a Final Supplementary Risk Assessment was sound, and that such research could be conducted safely at the BU Medical Campus site. The risk assessment examined a series of scenarios and potential consequences of procedural failures, including containment system failures and malevolent acts.
In a 76-page opinion, Saris found that “the NIH provides sufficient scientific support for its ultimate conclusions that the risks to the public are extremely low to not reasonably foreseeable, and the differences between the Boston location and the suburban and rural sites are not significant. In light of the benefits of placing the lab in an urban area like Boston, which provides opportunity for expert medical research collaboration, and the low risk of harm to the public, NIH’s decision is rational.”
In March of last year, the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs gave approval for the lab to conduct research at Biosafety Level 3 and Biosafety Level 4. Since then the lab has received additional required approval for BSL-3 research, and scientists at the lab are now gearing up for BSL-3 tuberculosis research that could someday stem the disease’s lung lesions in humans and prevent TB transmission by coughing. Research at Biosafety Level 4 requires a wait for further approvals from state courts, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An editorial in the April 13 Boston Globe advised readers that passage of Yancey’s ordinance “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.”
The Globe cited the elaborate security measures that protect the lab, including perimeter fencing and walls that would resist truck bombs, auxiliary generators, a requirement that scientists who work in BSL-4 biohazard areas clean up after themselves and assist with medical emergencies that occur in biohazard areas, and elaborate biometric security systems in high-level laboratory areas that require the presence of two scientists, “reducing the possibility that one scientist working alone with pathogens could spirit a vial outside.”
The newspaper also pointed out that Yancey “had been invited more than once to tour the lab but hasn’t yet done so.”
The Boston City Council is expected to decide whether or not to vote on Yancey’s proposed ordinance in the coming weeks.
This BU Today story was written by Art Jahnke. Amy Laskowski did additional reporting for this article.
Approximately 40 students, staff and faculty from Boston University’s Charles River and Medical Campuses performed an impromptu lunchtime concert today for the caregivers at Boston Medical Center to commemorate the anniversary of Marathon tragedy.
The event was personal; some of the musicians were friends with BU student Lu Lingzi, who died from injuries sustained from the bombings and others who were injured at the Finish Line, many from the College of Fine Arts.
The performance, which lasted approximately 15 minutes, included an instrumental performance of Danzon no. 2 by composer Arturo Marquez and a musical and choral performance of “You Raise Me Up.”
According to Moisès Fernández Via, Arts Outreach Program director, “The goal of the event was to provide the BMC community with an unexpected moment of collective shared beauty.”
All BU Medical Campus faculty, staff and students are encouraged to stop by Talbot Green for the fun, interactive BUMC Earth Day Festival.
- Bring hard-to-recycle items: batteries, Styrofoam, printer ink and toner cartidges, etc.
- Bring your bike for a tune-up and free lights
- Bring your old clothes and help us reach our 100 ton donation goal of clothing to Goodwill
Cheer on BMC’s Marathon Team
At noon there will be a Team BMC pep rally for the 104 BMC runners participating in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Don’t miss free food (while supplies last)! Test drive a new Lincoln automobile, receive a gift card and BMC will receive a donation from Lincoln.
BUMC Earth Day Festival
- Thursday, April 17
- 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
- Talbot Green
Study Seeks to Understand Factors Associated with the Use of Harsh Discipline by Mothers Who Have Experienced Trauma
It is known that the use of harsh discipline, such as hitting or screaming at a child, is a risk factor for child abuse and is more common in families where the mothers themselves have a history of trauma. Now researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have found that such mothers feel most stressed by repetitive child behaviors and report using harsh discipline to try to prevent future behavior problems. The findings, which currently appear online in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, may lead to interventions to promote positive discipline and prevent child maltreatment.
In order to better understand the daily stressors experienced by low-income mothers who had a past history of trauma, the researchers conducted in-depth, one-on-one qualitative interviews with 30 mothers with children under the age of three. After analyzing the data, the researchers identified themes that may increase the effectiveness and relevance of interventions to promote positive discipline and prevent child maltreatment with high-risk families.
“We see our study as a first step in a process to develop specific intervention models to promote positive parenting and prevent child maltreatment in families where mothers have suffered significant trauma,” explained lead author Caroline Kistin, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM and a pediatrician at BMC. “Our next step is to identify supports that will allow mothers to cope with stress without resorting to harsh discipline or leaving their children unsupervised for prolonged periods; and explicitly address parents’ long-term goals for their children and the impact of different discipline approaches,” she added.
Funding for this study was provided by the Joel and Barbara Alpert Endowment for the Children of the City and KL2TR000158-05.
Science is a booming, vibrant industry in the city of Boston. Between the universities, research institutions and biotechnology companies that pepper the city blocks, it isn’t any wonder why Boston is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of America”. While a typical career path may pursue the direction of academic research, there are also many alternative careers that go beyond the bench.
In an effort to bring these alternative careers in science to the forefront, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) in conjunction with the BUSM Office of Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs (OPDPA), the BUSM Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) and the Cambridge Science Festival, is hosting a speed networking event Alternative Careers in Science. This event, open to the BUMC community, will provide the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of career paths across the STEM fields from mid to late-career professionals in a fun, low-pressure environment.
This two-and-a-half hour event will be held in a speed networking fashion where participants will interact with more than 20 experienced panelists who will give insight into their chosen professions. The event will open and conclude with a half hour of networking and light refreshments. There will be five 15-minute sessions during which participants can learn about a different field of expertise, including:
- Academia and Teaching
- Business Development
- Competitive Intelligence
- Consulting, Engineering
- Human Resources
- Medical Affairs
- Medical Writing
- Patent Law
- Product Management
- Project Management
- Research and Development (R&D)
- Regulatory Affairs
- Science Policy
- Social Enterprise
- Technology Transfer
View the full list of panelists here.
Alternative Careers in Science will take place on Tuesday, April 22 from 6:30-9 p.m. in the BUSM Instructional Building, 14th Floor, Hiebert Lounge. A light dinner will be provided. Register for the event here.
Submitted by Sara Cody.
About the Event Sponsors:
The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is a national advocacy organization championing the interests of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across all disciplines and employment sectors. By breaking down barriers and creating opportunities, AWIS strives to ensure that women in these fields can achieve their full potential. MASS AWIS events are for networking, learning and fun. Whatever you do, you can be a role model and find one in our chapter.
The Cambridge Science Festival, the first of its kind in the United States, is a celebration showcasing the leading edge in science, technology, engineering and math. A multifaceted, multicultural event held annually every spring, the Cambridge Science Festival makes science accessible, interactive and fun!
The Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) is a recognized leader in research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences. Our more than 900 students can choose from 33 fields of study, with interdisciplinary programs available in many areas. Students may pursue Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. degrees in 15 different Departments and Programs. Masters degrees may be earned in many of these fields as well as in Medical Sciences, Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine, Clinical Investigation and other scientific and health services oriented disciplines. Certificates are also available in several areas of study.
The Office of Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs (OPDPA) is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and focuses on support of the postdocs, a vital part of the Boston University Medical Campus. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs is housed within the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Our mission is to help and support postdocs by addressing their needs and providing resources across the medical campus.
BUSM Faculty Member Honored as 2014 Community Clinician of the Year by Suffolk District Medical Society
Dr. Judith Linden cited for her efforts for survivors of sexual assault
BU School of Medicine Vice Chair for Education and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine Judith A. Linden, MD, has been honored as the 2014 Community Clinician of the Year by the Suffolk District Medical Society, one of the district societies of the Massachusetts Medical Society, the statewide professional association of physicians. She received the award at the district society’s annual meeting on April 3.
The Community Clinician of the Year Award was established in 1998 by the Massachusetts Medical Society to recognize a physician from each of the Society’s 20 districts who has made significant contributions to his or her patients and the community and who stands out as a leading advocate and caregiver. The Suffolk District comprises nearly 4,000 physicians who live and work in Boston and adjacent communities.
Board certified in emergency medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Dr. Linden also is an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Boston Medical Center. She received her BA from Brandeis University, MD from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and completed her residency at the Georgetown/George Washington University Emergency Medicine Residency Program.
In nominating her for the honor, her colleagues noted that “She has been a mentor for many medical students and residents over her career, and has focused her research and professional activities on improving the care for survivors of sexual assault. She has provided care as a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), and has gone above and beyond one’s expectations taking call on her own time responding to emergency departments to provide compassionate care to sexual assault survivors.”
A widely published author and frequent presenter on the topic of sexual assault, Dr. Linden is the only non-RN certified SANE in Massachusetts and is a member of the Advisory Board of SANE, representing the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians. Among several honors, her most recent awards include a Champion for Change Award from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the Emergency Medicine Chair’s Award from Boston University School of Medicine.
Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative seeks individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish background for study to speed efforts toward a cure
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) along with Boston Medical Center (BMC) will study individuals with genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) as one of 32 clinical sites of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), a large-scale biomarker study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
PPMI will enroll participants with a known mutation of the LRRK or SNCA [alpha-synuclein] gene. Previous research has shown these mutations are associated with Parkinson’s disease, and account for a greater number of PD cases among certain ethnic populations and families, notably the LRRK2 mutation in those of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish, Basque and North African Berber descent. The insight researchers glean from these research volunteers will fortify current efforts to develop a disease-modifying therapy, something that currently eludes the field.
“Studying individuals with genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s can accelerate our research toward a PD biomarker and more effective treatments,” said Samuel Frank, MD, principal investigator at BUSM/BMC. “Although known genetic mutations currently account for only five to 10 percent of all Parkinson’s cases, this population can provide invaluable information about the intricacies of the disease for all patients.”
PPMI is studying clinical and imaging data and biological samples of people with a genetic mutation to identify biomarkers and speed clinical trials. PPMI will enroll 250 people with the LRRK2 mutation and Parkinson’s and 250 people with the mutation but without Parkinson’s. Since the SNCA mutation is rarer, the study is recruiting 50 people with Parkinson’s and the mutation and 50 people with the SNCA mutation but without PD. These participants will be followed for five years.
Interested individuals can visit www.michaeljfox.org/ppmi/genetics or call 617-638-7745. PPMI is particularly interested in testing individuals of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent with Parkinson’s or with a relative with the disease. The LRRK2 mutation also accounts for more PD cases in people of North African Arab Berber or Basque descent. Study sites will recruit people with the rarer SNCA mutation through familial connections.
Boston University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology was highlighted in a March 28 story “A New Breed of Cancer Researcher” in the journal Science. Learn more about the emerging area of cancer research and how interdisciplinary training at centers like BU’s are playing an important role by clicking here.
Please join the Section of General Internal Medicine in welcoming Dr. Russell S. Phillips, MD as the annual Mark. A. Moskowitz Visiting Professor. Dr. Phillips will present at General Internal Medicine Grand Rounds, as well as the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds. Dr. Phillips is the Director of the Center for Primary Care, William Applebaum Professor of Medicine and Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Friday, March 28
“Strengthening our Primary Care Community: Sharing Stories”
FGH Building, First Floor Carter Conference Room
“Transforming Practice and Education in the Academic Health Center”
BUSM Evans Building, Keefer Auditorium
The annual Mark A. Moskowitz Memorial Lecture series was created in 2004 to honor Dr. Moskowitz. Dr. Moskowitz joined the faculty at BUSM in 1981. He was appointed Chief of the University Hospital Section of General Internal Medicine in 1988. He became Chief of the combined Sections of General Internal Medicine after the merger of University Hospital and Boston City Hospital in 1997. He led numerous research projects in a broad range of areas. His studies included measuring the severity of illness for hospitalized patients, evaluating the appropriateness of coronary artery bypass surgery in the Medicare population, disseminating and feeding back information on medical care practice patterns to physicians and measuring quality in ambulatory care. An eloquent advocate for using large administrative databases to study the practice and consequences of medical care, Dr. Moskowitz was a caring role model for students and residents. He mentored scores of General Internal Medicine fellows and junior faculty who have gone on to become national and international leaders in general internal medicine and health services research. The Visiting Professor Lecture series includes the General Internal Medicine Grand Rounds, as well as the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds.
Amid the balloons and cameras snapping, the Class of 2014 received their National Residency Matching Program letters with family, friends, faculty and staff joining in the excitement.
“You are amazing,” said Angela Jackson, MD, associate dean for student affairs to the class. “You have worked hard for this day, and we congratulate you.” Also congratulating the class was Robert Witzburg, MD ’77, associate dean for admissions. “We are proud of you and salute you for not only what you have accomplished but for who you are.”
Dean Karen Antman led a toast to the class noting that, “You will remember this day long after you even remember your graduation day.” She highlighted some of the 2014 residency statistics including that 175 members of the class matched in residencies across the country with 44 staying in Massachusetts. Thirty-seven percent of the class are entering primary care residencies in internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. Eighteen graduates will stay on the medical campus training at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and two are in the combined BMC/ Boston Children’s Hospital pediatrics program. Surgical residences surged this year to nine percent of the class from three percent in 2013, and emergency medicine remains of high interest with seven percent of the class matching in this specialty.
This year, for the first time, students joined with friends and family to commemorate the day in pictures participating in a photo booth using signs indicating where they had matched. Other members of the class of 2014 were filmed for a video on BUSM Match Day.
“You will be ours soon, and we will love having you as alumni,” said Jean Ramsey, MD, associate dean for alumni affairs to the class. “We will work with you to help keep you in contact and keep your class together.”