Biological hazard sticker on the doors to cell culture laboratory. Biohazard is a biological substance that poses a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily humans.

Biosafety Labs, Public Safety, and Politics

By Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

On May 25, 2023, merely six weeks before the Wuhan Biosafety lab lost its NIH funding amid the controversy of possible lab leaks and connection with COVID-19, the United States proudly opened the doors of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), the 14th biosafety level 4 lab in the U.S., and the first here that is capable of handling large animals.

The purpose: to research highly contagious diseases affecting animals and humans, such as foot and mouth disease. The NBAF will also feature a Biologics Development Module (BDM) to develop pilot vaccines and other countermeasures, and accelerate technology transfer to industry.

The location of this lab? Manhattan. Don’t be alarmed; it’s only Manhattan, Kansas, albeit adjacent to Kansas State University.

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ACCRA, GHANA: April 23, 2020 - The testing of samples for the coronavirus in a veterinary lab in Accra, Ghana.

Does It Really Matter How the COVID-19 Pandemic Started?

By Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, much air time and social media space has been allocated to the lab leak vs. natural spillover dispute regarding the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

To summarize briefly, the question is whether the pandemic was caused by a leak from a biosafety level (BSL) four lab in Wuhan, China, or whether it arose naturally as a consequence of a virus jumping from a bat to an animal and then to humans.

Given that the “truth” will likely never be known, and certainly not provable, the question becomes: is it important to seriously consider the lab leak theory?

The answer, I suggest, is an unabashed yes — but not for the reason you might think. The question is important prospectively, not retrospectively. Debating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is a fool’s errand. Considering laboratory accidents writ large, however, is important, as they remain a potent threat to international biosecurity.

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