ASM Participates in Meetings on Laboratory Biosafety
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invited ASM to serve on a Blue Ribbon Panel on clinical laboratory biosafety issues in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the scope of the risks to laboratory workers of infectious diseases acquired on the job. CDC was hoping to obtain information on where gaps occur in laboratory biosafety and what kinds of effective training and practices are available to increase the safety of laboratory testing. In addition, CDC asked panel experts for suggestions on the reporting and surveillance of laboratory acquired infections or exposures. Furthermore, CDC was trying to identify from the Blue Ribbon Panel best practices related to the implementation of standards, processes, and procedures that might lower the infectious disease risk of work in laboratories. Larry Gray, member of ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) Committee on Laboratory Practices, represented ASM at the Blue Ribbon Panel meeting on 16 May at CDC.
ASM was also invited by CDC in coordination with the National Laboratory Training Network (NLTN) to participate on a planning committee charged with creating a “Train the Trainer Workshop in Biosecurity and Biosafety.” Approximately 10 trainers attended the train-the-trainer workshop on 27–29 May in Atlanta. The trainers are now responsible for teaching subsequent roll-out courses for clinical laboratorians throughout the country starting in July and lasting through the fall. ASM member Larry Gray assisted CDC and NLTN with this activity.
In addition, ASM participated in a clinical laboratory biosafety session organized by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) in Saint Louis, Mo., on 19 May. ASM was invited to participate in a session entitled, “Are We Prepared? Assessing the Progress of Public Health Laboratory Outreach to Sentinel Clinical Laboratories.” Professional Affairs Committee Chair Vickie Baselski represented ASM at the session and presented “Biosafety Practices in Sentinel Clinical Laboratories: What’s New in the Era of Terrorism?” The purpose of the session was to highlight the public and private laboratory cooperation necessary to insure laboratory preparedness for emerging infectious diseases, including agents of bioterrorism. Other speakers and topics were Paula Snipes of the Minnesota Department of Health on “Assessing the Progress of Public Health Laboratory Outreach to Sentinel Clinical Laboratories” and Denise Pettit, Lead Scientist of the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, on “Using Exercises to Implement Changes in Laboratory Training and Outreach to Sentinel Clinical Laboratories.” Of particular note was the cooperative response by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the CDC, APHL, and ASM to biosafety issues surrounding the sentinel laboratory community handling of CAP Survey LPS-B containing Brucella abortus vaccine strain RB51. For more information regarding the ASM response to the LPS-B Survey, go to http://www.asm.org/Policy/index.asp ?bid_55189.
The PSAB sponsored a session on at the 108th ASM General Meeting in Boston entitled “Biosafety and Your Laboratory: the Importance of Safety in Science.” The session, convened by PSAB Chair Ruth Berkelman and Ronald Atlas, Chair, PSAB Committee on Biodefense, reviewed biosafety issues and concerns in microbiological research laboratories. Participants included W. Emmett Barkley of Proven Practices, LLC, Bethesda, Md., who provided an overview of public policy issues and concerns about biosafety; Claudia A. Mickelson of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, who presented information on biosafety issues in the laboratory; Richard Henkel of CDC, Atlanta, Ga., who presented details on the Select Agent Program; Rona Hirschberg of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md., who provided a status report on the NIH Regional Centers of Excellence and Biocontainment Labs; and Gregory Stewart of the U. S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., who presented information on international laboratories and biosafety including pathogen security issues. Atlas also presented information on ASM’s Biosafety Recommendations. A CD-Rom of the session can be purchased at http://www.siattend.com/Conference.aspx?cid_262&aid_66(click on “Tuesday Sessions” from the pulldown menu).
The 2008 Farm Bill Creates Change for Research
The 2008 Farm Bill was enacted into law on 22 May 2008. The bill establishes the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to replace the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. NIFA will house the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which will make competitive grants available to Colleges and Universities as well as other organizations conducting priority area research. AFRI’s budget is to be authorized at $700 million per fiscal year, which is nearly $200 million above that of the National Research Initiative (NRI). The ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board submitted comments and participated in discussions related to the Farm Bill provision to establish NIFA. The full text of H.R. 2419 can be found online at http://www.frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi -bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname_110_cong _bills&docid_f:h2419enr.txt.pdf.
“One Biology, One Science” Managing the Life Sciences in Transition—Opportunities at NSF
On 4 June, James Collins, Assistant Director of Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF), spoke at the General Meeting in Boston. His speech entitled “One Biology, One Science” discussed various opportunities at NSF. Ideas such as synthetic biology, sustainable energy, climate change, and the role of biology in a time of planetary change were addressed. More information regarding the Directorate for Biological Sciences can be found at: http://www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org_bio
ASM Comments on the Proposed Microbial Contaminants List
In May, the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board Environmental Committee chaired by Gary King submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comments on the Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List 3 (CCL3). ASM raised a number of concerns, including that the current pathogen list is not based on science. The full letter can be found on the ASM website at http://www.asm .org/Policy/index.asp?bid_58512.
ASM Selects Congressional Science Fellow for 2008–2009
ASM has awarded the ASM Congressional Science Fellowship to Vishal Patel for 2008–2009. Patel will work on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee during his fellowship year. Patel recently graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in Biological and Biomedical Sciences. He was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and completed his undergraduate training in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois. His doctoral research focused on the discovery and development of new drugs for the treatment of malaria. “It is my hope that I will be given a voice in government through the Congressional Science Fellowship,” Patel said, “Science cannot begin and end in the laboratory.”
ASM has supported Congressional Fellows since 1977. The ASM Congressional Science Fellowship Selection Committee selects a postdoctoral to midcareer microbiologist to spend one year on the staff of an individual congressman, congressional committee, or with some other appropriate organizational unit of Congress. Prospective Fellows must be citizens of the United States, members of ASM for at least one year, and must have completed their Ph.D. by the time the fellowship begins in September. The Congressional Science Fellowship is supported in part by the Frobisher Fund, a bequest made to ASM by Martin Frobisher. More information regarding the fellowship is available on the ASM website at http://www.asm.org/Policy/index.asp?bid_12331, or contact the Office of Public Affairs at email@example.com. The deadline for applications for the 2009–2010 fellowship is 20 February 2009. Patel