Via ScienceInsider: U.S. biosafety panel to come out of hibernation with new members. The heads are rolling already. Excerpt:
On the heels of several mishaps involving deadly pathogens, U.S. officials are reconvening an expert advisory panel that hasn’t met in nearly 2 years. But the government has also dismissed 11 of the original members of the 23-person panel, called the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB).
“We had no inkling it was going to happen this way,” says Paul Keim, a pathogen genomics researcher at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff who formerly chaired NSABB and has been on the panel since it was formed in 2005.
The 11 members learned they were being dismissed Sunday evening in an e-mail from the board’s executive director, Mary Groesch, who works at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), NSABB’s overseer.
The e-mail prompted this tweet from NSABB member Michael Imperiale of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: “#NIH just gave remaining inaugural NSABB members pink sheets. Bizarre time to eliminate all institutional memory.”
The e-mail, which ScienceInsider obtained, cheerily informs Imperiale, Keim, and the other original NSABB members that the board will be reconvening in the fall without them. “I wanted to tell you that a new slate of NSABB members has been approved as your replacements, and thus your service on the board is ending,” Groesch wrote. “Since you have all been so gracious as to extend your service for several years beyond your initial term, this may come as welcome news!”
NSABB advises and guides the U.S. government about “dual use” research that involves biological agents that could be used as bioweapons. In 2011, it became embroiled in heated debates about “gain-of-function” experiments with the deadly avian influenza virus H5N1 that made it more transmissible in mammals. Last week, Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, held an unusual press conference to discuss three separate, recent mistakes involving lab safety with smallpox, influenza, and anthrax. He said such breaches “should never happen.”
Original board member Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infection Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, said he had expected to serve until sometime in 2015.
“I don't know why they do or don’t do things at the NSABB,” Osterholm told ScienceInsider. “I gave up some time ago trying to predict that.” The board has 12 other members who apparently are continuing.