Every once in a while a dialogue comes through (via comments) on a post that is worthy of further debate. Below is just the kind of dialogue I’m refering to. I hope you will agree.
Thanks for your coverage.
The internal DHS Study Committee (SSRA) was about as close to an “inside job” as you could assemble and virtually all of the panelists had glaring conflicts of interest and personal stakes in seeing this project move forward.
Both of the USDA “independent experts” on the SSRA, Drs. Cyril Gay and Randall Leavings, were also members of the initial NBAF site visit team. Their efforts as site visit team members, largely informed the decision of siting NBAF in Kansas. They may have also met with Senator Pat Roberts during their 2007 site visits in Kansas.
SSRA members Steve Bennett, Dr. Michelle Colby, Dr. Bruce Harper and Dr. Joanne Jones-Meehan are all DHS employees. The notion that they would cast a skeptical eye towards a pet project of the DHS Secretary is laughable.
SSRA member Dr. David Brake is a contractor for DHS at Plum Island and his firm would have a vested financial stake in an expanded DHS countermeasure enterprise at NBAF.
SSRA member Dr. Josh Fine (SAIC) is also a contractor for DHS at Plum Island. His firm, SAIC, could potentially stand to gain a windfall if selected to provide SETA contract support at NBAF.
SSRA member Dr. Ted Schroeder is a professor at Kansas State. No conflict of interest there;) SSRA member Dr. Charles Hobbs is a “senior scientist emeritus” at the Lovelace Respiratory Reserach Institute. Lovelace’s President and CEO, Dr. Robert Rubin, was appointed in 2007 by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius to serve on the “NBAF in Kansas Task Force.” Of course, there is no chance that Dr. Hobbs would come out against a major policy goal of his instiution’s President and CEO.
Other than the two HHS members, the SSRA panelists were riddled with ethical, professional, personal and financial conflicts of interest.
What is truly remarkable is that the NAS study came out the way it did. The NAS study was designed to be a “rubber stamp” and I feared it would be another “inside job.” Dr. Atlas, the NAS Committee Chairman, served on the DHS Homeland Secuity Science & Technology Advisory Committee (HSSTAC) (twice!) with Dr. David Franz, the “fixer” used by Kansas to bring NBAF to KSU. Dr. Franz sat on the HSSTAC as a “special government employee” all the while he was on the payroll of Kansas State and held appointments on the “NBAF in Kansas Task Force” and Kansas Bioscience Authority.
The fact that the NAS questioned the SSRA so strongly and thoroughly is heartening. I don’t think DHS was expecting this. The NAS study should serve as nothing less than a rebuke of DHS’ entire rationale for NBAF and its selection of Manhattan, KS as a site for live virus Foot-and-Mouth Disease research.
Dave Green writes:
So how is it that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in downtown Atlanta has been studying the most deadly and infectious diseases known to man since 1942 without an issue?
(An interesting side note: Indy Weekly’s Lisa Sorg did a story “Big dough goes to NBAF PR” back in July 08. Included in the article is a quote from a ”Dave Green”, Sorg referenced as ”Consortium member Dave Green of the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine”.)
Save_PIADC responds to Dave Green’s question:
The comparison between NBAF and CDC is misplaced. The NBAF champions still tout this false comparison despite the fact that it was debunked in the GAO’s 2008 and 2009 studies and yet again by the recent NAS report. Rod Trewyn and Tom Thornton should be ashamed of themselves for regurgitating such thoroughly debunked talking points.
Where do I begin? For starters, the continued (and tiresome) comparison of NBAF with CDC is inappropriate. Animal research at CDC is performed within safety cabinets/gloveboxes and is done on small animals. There are no “gloveboxes” for cows, sheep and swine. The animal room itself is the “glovebox” and people have to work/walk/kneel inside of it. The volume of waste produced by, say, mice and rhesus monkeys is incomparible to a cow – let alone a room containing 25-50 of them for an FMD vaccine challenge. Given this reality, there is a chance for mechanical transmission of the pathogen. The NAS report nicely covers the increased risk of aerosolization that can take place during routine cleaning.
Woking with 25+ cows in a room is very different than working with primates in a glovebox. Different species produce differing amount of virus – even when they have the same disease. Some species serve as amplifiers. A good example is the case of swine who are infected with Foot-and-Mouth disease. Pigs produce a tremendous amount of virus in their respiratory tract – as much as ONE MILLION virus particles per liter of exhaled air. Cattle are very susceptible to airborne transmission given the large tidal volume (big lungs) when they breathe.
Unlike at places like CDC, personnel working with dozens of cows exposed to FMD can be carriers of the disease. Why? Because they actually are in the “glovebox” (aka. room) with millions of virus particles. Mechanical transmission is a real concern. Mechanical Transmission of live FMD. Reference: Foreign Animal Diseases: 7th edition published by the US Animal Health Assn. in 2008. Page 264: “the potential for humans to harbor the FMDV in their respiratory tract has been investigated. It was noted that FMDV can be carried for a short period in the throats of people. Sampling of human subjects who had been in isolation rooms containing FMDV-infected animals demonstrated that the virus could be recovered from the nose, throat and saliva of 7-8 people up to 24 hours after immediately exiting the room.” In the history of accidental releases of FMD from bio-containment facilities, the overwhelming majority have ocurred due to human error.
The risk of Mechanical transmission of FMD is why Plum Island employees must comply with a personally recognizant quarantine for five days – every time they step foot into the lab. This means they must avoid susceptible species. This is relatively easy to do in Suffolk County, NY or Southeastern CT. Do you really expect every employee at NBAF to do the seem, even poorly paid cleaning contractors? How many will be tempted to visit Grandma on the ranch 2 or 3 days after being in the lab? As Rep. John Dingell said, this is a “foolish tempting of fate” that is contradicted by the reality that people are, well, human.
Most interesting is the fact that DHS itself concluded that there is a 70% probablity of the FMD virus escaping the NBAF within its projected 50 year life cycle. This is remarkable and should give everyone pause.
Finally, the NBAF champions love to cite the BSL-4 animal labs in Australia and Canada as justification for bringing NBAF to Kansas. There are, however, a few problems with this comparison: 1) Australia does not allow FMD research to be conducted in its lab; and 2) Canada only conducts FMD research at the BSL-4 level and has only one BSL-4 equipped room that can hold 2 cattle. NBAF will not conduct FMD reaserch at the BSL-4 level, it will conduct the reaserch at BSL-3Ag. Furthermore, NBAF will have dozens of FMD-exposed animals in its facility.
The NBAF champions march on in the face of damning counterarguments. Their talking points are repeatedly debunked, yet they still repeat them.