We studied safety at the world’s most sophisticated laboratories, and found their policies often left much to be desired
- Dr Gregory D Koblentz is an associate professor at George Mason University, and Dr Filippa Lentzos is senior lecturer in science and international security at King’s College London
The debate on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic has recently focused on the potential for the Sars-CoV-2 virus to have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the centre of the pandemic. This institute houses a maximum containment laboratory, more commonly known as a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab, designed to handle dangerous pathogens for which there are no available treatments or vaccines.
The controversy has brought renewed attention to biosafety, biosecurity, “gain-of-function” and other “dual-use” research, along with consideration of the level of oversight that such labs should be operating under. Although this debate has become polarised and politicised, we should not lose sight of the importance of these issues, even if it turns out this lab had nothing to do with the emergence of the novel coronavirus. Concerns about whether labs are conducting their research safely, securely and responsibly are not new, or of relevance solely to labs in China – as revealed by a comprehensive study on global BSL-4 labs that we recently completed.
Read the original article at The Guardian