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CDC Announces New External Biosafety Advisory Committee

Ebola Virus Research BSL 4 USAMRIID

The Centers for Disease Control this week announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup of the Advisory Committee to the Director of CDC. This group will provide advice and guidance to the CDC Director and CDC’s new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The initial emphasis of the workgroup focuses on reviewing and providing input into corrective actions for CDC’s laboratories. These include actions identified following investigations conducted in response to the June 2014 transfer of potentially viable Bacillus anthracis from a CDC BSL-3 facility to CDC BSL-2 facilities; actions identified in follow up to an inadvertent shipment of an H5N1 influenza-containing laboratory specimen to an external BSL-3 laboratory; and other necessary actions identified through ongoing procedural reviews.

Other functions and responsibilities of the advisory committee include:

  • Prioritizing implementation of additional safeguards across all CDC laboratories.
  • Identifying potential weaknesses and necessary safeguards based on experiences of non-CDC (e.g., private and/or academic) laboratories.
  • Identifying training and oversight needs to promote and sustain a culture of laboratory safety at CDC.
  • Identifying ways to provide stronger safeguards for laboratories across the United States.
  • Assessing whether current biosafety and biosecurity rules, processes, and procedures are appropriate.
  • Determining whether implementation or execution of the current protocols is adequate.
  • Providing recommendations for improving these protocols or their implementation.

The group is set to meet for the first time in early August and will meet as frequently as needed.

Members of the Laboratory Safety Workgroup Advisory Committee:

Kenneth Berns, MD, PhD is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, College of Medicine, University of Florida. He recently retired as Director of the Genetics Institute at the university, and he served as Dean of the College of Medicine and Vice President for Health Affairs. Dr. Berns is a current member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, and a past member of the Board of Scientific Counselors, NIAID. He is a past President of the American Society for Microbiology.

Debra Hunt, DrPH, CBSP†, is the Director of Biological Safety within the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office at Duke University, with responsibilities in the University, the Medical Center, and Duke Health System. She is also an Assistant Professor in the university’s Department of Community and Family Medicine, Division of Occupational Medicine. She serves on the Duke University Institutional Biosafety Committee, the Duke University Safety Committee, and is the designated “Responsible Official” for Duke University’s Select Agent Program. She is a Certified Biological Safety Professional (CBSP) and a Past-President of the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA). In addition to being a co-editor for two editions of Biological Safety: Principles and Practices, published by the American Society for Microbiology (3rd ed., 2000; 4th ed., 2006), she served as a guest editor for the CDC/NIH publication, Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 4th edition (BMBL). Dr. Hunt has served on the Planetary Protection Advisory Committee for NASA. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for NIH’s National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP), and is currently Chairman.

Thomas Inglesby, MD, is Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Center for Health Security, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His work is internationally recognized in the fields of public health preparedness, pandemic flu and epidemic planning, and biosecurity. Dr. Inglesby is Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC, and he is Co-chair of the National Health Security Preparedness Index initiative. He has been chair or a member of several National Academy of Sciences committees, and he has served in an advisory capacity to the Defense Science Board, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Inglesby has delivered Congressional testimony on public health preparedness and biosecurity.

Joseph Kanabrocki, PhD, is Associate Vice President for Research Safety and Professor of Microbiology, University of Chicago. In this capacity, Dr. Kanabrocki serves as Select Agent Responsible Official, University Biosafety Officer, and Director of the Biosafety programs at the University of Chicago’s Ricketts Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research. Dr. Kanabrocki serves as Councilor of the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for NIH’s National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP). In addition, he participated in the 2012 External Review of CDC’s Animal Biosafety Level 3 Vivarium Facility.

Patricia Olinger, RBP††, is Director of the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) at Emory University. EHSO has university-wide responsibility for developing, implementing, and maintaining environmental health and safety programs to control occupational exposures and to oversee the implementation of the mandated federal/state laws, regulations, and guidelines. Ms. Olinger has served on the Scientific Advisory Board for NIH’s National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP) and has served as Councilor of the American Biological Safety Association. She is one of the only a few individuals who has implemented a biorisk laboratory management system in the United States.

Michael Pentella, PhD, is Director of the Bureau of Laboratory Sciences at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He previously served as the Associate Director of the Iowa state public health laboratory and as Clinical Associate Professor at the College of Public Health, University of Iowa. Dr. Pentella has more than 30 years of experience in clinical and public health laboratories and is board certified in medical microbiology and infection control.

David Relman, MD, is Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University and Chief of Infectious Diseases at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He was a founding member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity; a member of the Science, Technology and Engineering Advisory Panel for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Chair of the Forum on Microbial Threats at the Institute of Medicine; and Immediate Past President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Dr. Relman served as vice-chair of a 2011 National Academy of Sciences study of the science underlying the FBI investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings.

Heather Sheeley, BA (Hons), MSc., CBiol MSB., CMIOSH, FISTR, is Corporate BioSafety Programme Lead, Public Health England. She has more than 20 years of experience in biological laboratory safety and general safety, and is a recognized expert/specialist in biosafety, especially in the areas of design and commissioning of high-containment laboratories. She is a past President of the European Biosafety Association and a member of the American Biological Safety Association.

Frederick Sparling, MD, is Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also serves as Director, Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, and Director, NC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Cooperative Research Center. His interests include emerging infections and biodefense, and supporting investigators who work on pathogens including dengue viruses, alphaviruses, coronaviruses, Yersinia, and tularemia. He has served as a member of NIH’s Committee on Scientific Boundaries for Review, as a member of the IOM Committee on Emerging Microbial Threats to Health, and as chair of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund committee for Investigators in Infectious Diseases Pathogenesis.

Jill Taylor, PhD, is Director of the Wadsworth Center (pdf), the state of New York’s public health reference laboratory and a premier institution for basic and directed research. She has extensive experience and expertise in public health and laboratory research, particularly related to the prevention and control of infectious diseases. Additionally, she serves as the Director-of-Record for the Wadsworth Center’s clinical laboratory. Among her professional activities, Dr. Taylor has served and held leadership positions on committees of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. She is a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors, Office of Infectious Diseases, CDC, and is co-chair of the board’s Infectious Diseases Laboratory Working Group.

Dominica (Dee) Zimmerman, is a Biosafety Officer and Director of the Environmental Health and Biosafety Regulations and Requirements Core in the Environmental Health and Safety, Biological and Chemical Safety Program for the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. She has more than 28 years of safety experience at UTMB and 6 years of experience as laboratory coordinator and division safety liaison with the University of Puerto Rico, Division of Marine Ecology. She has been an active and contributing member of the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) for more than 20 years, a member of the ABSA Curriculum and professional Development core, Education and Training, and a member of the ABSA Trans-Federal BSL3 certification Taskforce. She has experience in the design of high containment laboratories and has coordinated and managed the UTMB Institutional Biosafety Committee since 1992.

Certified Biological Safety Professional (CBSP)
†† Registered Biosafety Professional (RBP)

Source: Centers for Disease Control press release, adapted.

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