In 2003, the Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) was awarded a $128 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build one of two national maximum-containment laboratory facilities for pathogen research. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) are meant to support the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' biodefense research agenda, conducting research to develop new approaches to treating, preventing, and diagnosing a variety of bacterial and viral diseases. The facility includes a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) containment laboratory housed in a 192,000 square foot building. Although the NEIDL BSL-4 laboratory accounts for only 13 percent of the building's total space, it has been the source of virtually all of the community concern surrounding this project. The location of the facility on Albany Street in Boston's South End, which is an environmental justice community, has been controversial, and there have been numerous public meetings over the plans for the facility as well as three legal actions challenging the project.
Continuing Assistance to the National Institutes of Health on Preparation of Additional Risk Assessments for the Boston University NEIDL, Phase 3, the fifth in a series of reports about the proposed facility, provides further technical input on the scope and design of any additional studies that may be needed to assess the risks associated with the siting and operation of the NEIDL. This report presents comments and questions on a "90 percent", or penultimate, draft of the revised risk assessment. According to the report, the "90 percent" draft of the risk assessment is a substantial improvement over past documents reviewed. Additionally, the report makes recommendations to improve the version that is ultimately prepared for public comment.