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$1 million fine for biosafety snafus

Texas A&M University will pay an unprecedented $1 million in fines for more than a dozen safety violations in its research program on bioterrorism agents, the university announced today (February 20). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linkurl:suspended;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54082/ the university's bioterrorism research efforts in July, 2007, after an inspection prompted by the biosafety watchdog group, the linkurl:Sunshine Project,;http://www.the-scientist.com/b

By | February 20, 2008

Texas A&M University will pay an unprecedented $1 million in fines for more than a dozen safety violations in its research program on bioterrorism agents, the university announced today (February 20). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linkurl:suspended;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54082/ the university's bioterrorism research efforts in July, 2007, after an inspection prompted by the biosafety watchdog group, the linkurl:Sunshine Project,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54293/ uncovered the linkurl:safety lapses.;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53626/ The university proposed the sum to the Office of Inspector General, which levies such fines according to Health and Human Services Department regulations, and learned this afternoon that the OIG has agreed, Elsa Murano, president of Texas A&M, said in a press teleconference. Does that mean that the university acknowledges the safety breaches, which included three workers' exposure to the bacteria Brucella and another pathogen which causes Q fever? "Essentially, yes," she said. Murano said the university "proactively" proposed the large fine "so that others will realize that this is the type of financial agreement they should expect to make when standards are not maintained." Texas A&M intends "to develop a model program for research and compliance in this area," she said. Rules for handling the class of especially dangerous pathogens termed "select agents" have been in place since 2002. Until now, most violations have resulted in linkurl:fines;http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/enforcement/administrative/cmp/cmpitems.html#6 ranging from approximately $12,000 to $50,000. In one exception, the University of California was fined $450,000 after it incorrectly shipped anthrax. Last September, Texas A&M proposed a fine of $10,000. Murano declined to say how officals settled on the $1 million figure, noting that she began her position as president of the university just six weeks ago. Early next month, the CDC will send a team to re-inspect labs working on bioterrorism agents to determine whether the university can resume select agent work, Murano said. The university has an $18 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security for research on bioterrorism agents.
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

February 21, 2008

UC was fined ~$450,000 a few years back for violations in the chemistry department handling toxics. I am not aware of a $450,000 fine against UC for anthrax handling. Are you sure that is correct? Can you supply the campus and department?
Avatar of: Alla Katsnelson

Alla Katsnelson

Posts: 17

February 21, 2008

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is run by the University of California, was fined last year because of safety violations in shipping anthrax vials to labs in Florida and Virginia. For details on that case and a list of all such fines, see the "Select Agents and Toxins" section of the HHS Office of Inspector General listing of administrative actions here: http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/enforcement/administrative/cmp/cmpitems.html#6\n

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