to the Director. The panel members were charged with providing ongoing, expert input to guide the development of any necessary additional risk assessment analyses. Also in 2008, the same NRC committee reconvened at the request of NIH. The NRC committee has been meeting with the BRP periodically as milestones were reached in the preparation of additional risk assessment materials. The NRC released its second letter report in April 2008.5 The committee restricted its comments in that report to suggestions based only on its previous review of the DSRASSA and improving the risk assessments presented therein as input to any additional studies that may be needed to assess risk associated with the siting and operation of the NEIDL. As noted in its 2007 report, the committee acknowledged and emphasized the need for biocontainment laboratories, including BSL-4 laboratories. However, the committee’s view remained that the selection of sites for high-containment laboratories should be supported by detailed analyses and transparent communication of the available scientific information regarding possible risks.

In its 2008 report, the committee refrained from prescribing specific methods and other details, electing instead to structure its suggestions to the NIH BRP around the following overarching questions that should be addressed in future reports about the risks associated with operating the NEIDL:

  • What Could Go Wrong?

    • Release scenarios for infectious agents

    • Agents to consider for risk assessment

  • What are the probabilities that these scenarios will occur?

  • What would be the consequences if they did occur?

The committee also recommended that NIH make greater use of the accumulated wisdom in the published literature on how to achieve effective risk communication.

In 2009 NIH asked the NRC to convene the committee again to provide input at key milestones in the development of the supplementary risk assessment through a series of letter reports (see full Statement of Task, below). The first milestone for which input from the NRC was requested was the development of plans for the supplemental risk assessment. On March 19, 2010 at a joint meeting of the NIH BRP and the NRC committee, the two contractor groups selected by NIH to complete the supplemental risk assessment—Tetra Tech and its subcontractors from the University of Utah—made presentations on the proposed plans for the supplemental risk assessment. At NIH’s request, the NRC committee focused its discussions of the proposed approaches on the following questions:

  1. Is the range of agents being studied appropriate?

  2. Is the approach to event sequence analysis appropriate?

    • Will the method result in an adequate range of scenarios being considered and selected for analysis?

    • Are the plans for analysis and expression of results appropriate?

  1. Is the modeling approach appropriate?

    • Is the approach to initial infection sound?

    • Are the criteria for and selection of models sound?

    • Are the uses of the hybrid branching-compartment models and the extreme values analysis sound?


NRC. Technical Input on Any Additional Studies to Assess Risk Associated with Operation of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Boston University: A Letter Report (2008). Available at:

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