The rush to put new rules in place for handling potentially dangerous materials in US laboratories last year put many in the research community on edge.
Long before the prospect of bioterrorism became a national worry, scientists studying virulent pathogens had worked out safety standards to make sure the ugliest of bugs were not let loose on the public. The fear was that government regulators would add only more paperwork and costs to the process, getting in the way of research.
Regulators like Charles Schable, director of the bioterrorism preparedness and response program at the National Center for Infectious Diseases, who have a background in research, are quick to agree. "Obviously, scientists that are handling the most dangerous organisms don't need select agent rules," Schable says. "They are going to be pretty careful."
The point of the select agent rules, he says, is to keep dangerous pathogens and...