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Thursday, May 28, 2015
USA Today: Inside Univ of Hawaii's secretive biolab
By Selected News Articles @ 6:39 PM :: 5355 Views :: Health Care, Higher Education

USA Today: Inside America's secretive biolabs

USA Today May 28, 2015: ...Labs at the University of Hawaii-Manoa are among those in the federal performance improvement program, at least as of January, records obtained by USA TODAY show. Although the secrecy provisions of the 2002 bioterrorism law apply only to certain federal agencies, officials at the state-run university cited that law among its reasons for denying requests for records about safety violations and the performance improvement program.

The university inadvertently confirmed that its Honolulu labs had been put in the performance improvement program in records it filed in January with Hawaii's Office of Information Practices, which is deciding USA TODAY's public records appeal. The university wrote that being put on a PIP is something it is "proud" of.

"We do not believe entering into the program is an embarrassment, we think it should be showcased, but that would be improper because as participants in the Federal Select Agent Program, we are obligated to keep this information private," the university wrote to the appeals agency, adding that it "has been an exemplary participant in the Federal Select Agent Program."

University of Hawaii officials declined to be interviewed....

At the University of Hawaii-Manoa, biosafety staff discovered a scientist was doing a type of cancer research in 2012 despite being denied biosafety committee approval and being repeatedly told not to do the experiments. Separately, at a March 2013 biosafety committee meeting at the university, members discussed the need for penalties when researchers fail to comply with biosafety rules, stating "there must be some consequence and corrective action other than an email" to the scientist, the minutes say....

read ... UH Bio Labs

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Universities, feds fight to keep lab failings secret

USA Today May 28, 2015: Although the University of Hawaii-Manoa released redacted versions of its biosafety committee minutes and incident reports to USA TODAY, it refused to release any records about enforcement actions taken against its labs for violations of federal rules for working with pathogens that are potential bioterror agents. The university cited the 2002 federal bioterrorism law among its reasons for refusing to release the records about its labs being put by regulators into performance improvement program. USA TODAY has appealed the denial to Hawaii's Office of Information Practices.

In response to USA TODAY's appeal, the university told the appeals office: "We do not believe entering into the program is an embarrassment, we think it should be showcased, but that would be improper because as participants in the Federal Select Agent Program, we are obligated to keep this information private." The university also told the appeals office it "has been an exemplary participant in the Federal Select Agent Program."

According to the CDC, labs are put into the performance improvement program for "repeated failure to correct past observation, biosafety and security concerns" or for failures to comply with certain security requirements.

In a separate letter to Hawaii's information practices office, university chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman said it is critical to keep the disciplinary records secret: "We believe that release of this information would present a danger to both national security and the health and welfare of residents of Hawaii."

In the biosafety committee minutes the university released to USA TODAY, it has redacted information that appears to involve its regulatory problems with the Federal Select Agent Program.

read ... Failings


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