Is Bioresearch Making Us Less Safe?

Scientist's suicide highlights easy access to burgeoning field
By Sam Biddle,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2008 9:59 AM CDT
Police talk with Diane Ivins, widow of Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who died Tuesday of an overdose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, at their home, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, in Frederick, Md.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
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(Newser) – Bruce Ivins was one of a handful of scientists with access to deadly agents of biowarfare—until the 2001 anthrax attacks in which he was suspected. In the wake of the researcher's suicide, the New York Times takes a look at the nation’s bioterror infrastructure—which has ballooned in the last 7 years—and asks whether giving more people more access to dangerous pathogens is making us safer, or placing us at grave risk.

There are now hundreds of researchers at dozens of labs across the country at work on understanding dangerous germs and developing vaccines, but not all find that reassuring: “What the nation gets is a very expensive bill, less security, and a greater risk to the surrounding communities,” contends the chair of a House panel on bioterror lab safety.