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HomeBreaking NewsWisconsin Members of Congress Want Answers About UW Lab Leaks

Wisconsin Members of Congress Want Answers About UW Lab Leaks


Wisconsin’s Republican members of Congress want answers about two separate years-old lab leaks reported at UW-Madison.

Congressman Mike Gallagher, along with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and other Republicans this week sent a letter the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes for Health, and the Centers for Disease Control asking for details about reported exposures to a genetically modified form of the H5N1 virus.

“One of the many impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had is an increasing awareness of gain-of-function research – and specifically the Department of Health and Human Services’ role in funding this research. A recent article has brought to light possible exposure incidents involving gain-of-function research which appears to have been funded by HHS at a University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Gallagher wrote in the letter. “We write to request information on biosafety incidents at HHS-funded research institutions such as UW-Madison.”

An article published in the USA Today earlier this month detailed the exposures.

One happened back in 2013, when a researcher accidentally jabbed a needle through their protective gear. The other happened in 2019 when a research assistant was in the lab, but their protective suit wasn’t sealed.

Gallagher and the others say it appears the Department of Health and Human Services played a role in funding gain-of-function research on the virus, and therefore needs to be open and honest about the safety of that research.

The report of these two researchers’ potential exposure to a genetically engineered virus and alleged failures to adequately address said exposures raises questions about HHS’s oversight of biosafety incidents,” Gallagher added.

The USA Today story says despite the possible exposures at the UW-Madison lab, full reports weren’t passed along immediately. In one case it took two months for all of the reports to be filed.

Gallagher and the rest of Wisconsin’s Republican members of Congress want the complete list of all biosafety incidents reported to HHS from 2013 to present, a copy of any reports submitted to HHS regarding the two biosafety incidents, as well as information and safety policy reports for any research institution receiving HHS funds.

Gallagher and the rest are also asking for answers about whether HHS requires institutions to notify local and/or state health officials when an actual or potential exposure occurs, whether HHS provides guidance on what qualifies as an exposure, potential exposure, or non-exposure in the event of a biosafety incident, and how often HHS conducts inspections or audits of research facilities working with infectious agents.

The Congressmen have given HHS a deadline of May 19 to respond.


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