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OHSU Bio-Terrorism Labs: Hold Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes to his word

OHSU has applied for $200 million dollars of federal tax money to build two biodefense labs at their primate research center in Hillsboro. One would be a Bio-Safety Level 4 laboratory, the highest level of biological security which would house the most virulent contagions such as Ebola, anthrax, smallpox and Hantavirus. The existing OHSU primate lab has a history of losing monkeys, ignoring safety protocols, avoiding public accountability and risking public safety. With these proposed new labs funded by Homeland Security, there will be less public oversight than ever.
At a recent citizens group meeting, OHSU representatives:
  • displayed indifference to public concern and safety by responding to the suggestion that it be located in the desert by saying the scientists don't want to go there.
  • refused to answer whether they would build the labs if there was strong community opposition
  • admitted that they did not have control of the use of these labs funded by Homeland Security
  • refused to clearly state that the military will not make use of these facilities
A couple weeks ago, concerned citizens pressured Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes into agreeing to a city sponsored public meeting about the proposed bio-terror labs, but the city is dragging its feet in arranging such a meeting. Contact the mayor, voice your opposition to these dangerous bio-installations, and demand he respect citizens wishes and hold a public meeting.
Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes

pdf flyer

At the recent citizen meeting one person commented: "So far, to my knowledge, there's been exactly one bioterrorism incident... in the U.S., some Anthrax attacks... I'm trying to understand the logic here. Now they came from a government funded lab. Okay, so the solution to that is to build more government funded labs?"

Some researchers and clinicians are wondering whether dedicating so many efforts and such huge financial resources ($5.9 Billion in Homeland Security money for biodefense) to the study and development of therapeutics for a few infections that presently do not affect people, or at best only a few, is a luxury that we cannot afford, in the absence of a reasonably proven risk. Old scourges like malaria, tuberculosis, and parasitic infections are still affecting millions and millions of people all over the world. At least 3000 children still die every day of malaria, according to the World Health Organization, and the western world is doing very little to help.

The NIH has stated that local public acceptance of the labs will be taken into consideration when awarding the grants. The Portland area's current silence on the proposed biodefense labs makes us very good candidates for them. The NIH decision should be made this September, so now is the time to make your voice heard! The University of California, Davis, is one of the institutions that applied for these grants. Because of overwhelming public outcry, Davis Mayor Susie Boyd reversed her original position and will oppose the project.

Though these labs would kill thousands of animals in horrific ways while providing no benefit for humans, these labs are not just an animal rights issue. From enormous white coat welfare used on meaningless projects, to lack of transparency, to illegal weaponization of biological agents like the secretly developed Anthrax that was used in the attacks soon after 9/11, which even Congress didn't know about, there are many reasons to speak out against these labs. OHSU's community relations plan to sell the lab to us states they will "provide full disclosure" and also "An open line of communication is necessary to establish public trust and value of the center... Both achievements and problems will be communicated to the public to ensure continued confidence". Yet OHSU has given us no reason to believe they will be accountable to the public or that they care about the public's concerns. People have had to sue OHSU to get public information about the research we have been paying for. The Marquam Hill community around OHSU's main campus has expressed strong opposition to the building of a proposed tram yet OHSU is going to build it anyway. For years the public has been requesting a public forum to address concerns about the validity of their animal-based research and OHSU continually refuses to participate. At the aforementioned recent meeting, OHSU displayed almost casual indifference for public safety responding to citizen suggestions that it would be better to locate such a lab in the desert far away from heavy population centers by saying the scientists don't want to go there.

Contact the following and tell them that you will not accept this dangerous, wasteful project. There should be well advertised public meetings in every city in the region.

Grants Management - NIH
Linda Shaw

Rona Hirschberg, Ph.D.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
6610 Rockledge Drive
Room 5007, MSC 6603
Bethesda, MD 20892-7630
E-Mail: rhirschberg@niaid.nih.gov
Phone: 301-402-4197

Locally contact:

Governor Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
Governors Citizens Representative Message Line
Phone: 503-378-4582
For email go to this link:

Portland Mayor
Office of Mayor Vera Katz
1221 SW 4th Ave., Suite 340
Portland, Oregon 97204-1995
Phone: 503-823-4120

pdf flyer - 2up 03.Aug.2003 12:40


pdf flyer - 2-sided 2-up

Please print and distribute widely!

Very bad thing... 04.Aug.2003 12:19


Here's an article from the Davis Enterprise in CA, where the state university is also competing to build a level 4 lab. It's a very controversial issue down there, and there isn't yet even a hint that bio-weapons research will be going on at that lab. Combine this with the recent article (I forget which paper) showing how OHSU was shifting its focus from providing health services for the poor to making money in research, and I'd be very concerned.

NIH team visits UCD (here's the link until it expires:  http://www.davisenterprise.com/articles/2003/07/24/news/166new0.txt)
By Crystal Ross O'Hara and Sharon Stello/Enterprise staff writers

Officials from the National Institutes of Health visited UC Davis on Thursday to learn more about the university's proposal to place a National Biocontainment Laboratory on campus.

Members of the public were not allowed to meet with the people who will decide whether UCD will be granted funding for the $200 million Biosafety Level 3-4 facility, but residents on both sides of the controversy did what they could to make their voices heard, holding rallies on opposite sides of the campus.

The proposed biolab has been a particularly contentious issue, with residents sharply divided. Proponents say the high-security biolab will play a vital public health role. Opponents are concerned about safety and the potential for terrorism, and believe research could possibly focus on bioweapons.

The visit by officials from the NIH's National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is the final step in UCD's bid for funding. NIH is expected to announce in September which of at least five institutions vying for the lab will receive funding. NIH has said it will fund one or two such facilities.

UCD Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said Thursday afternoon that she feels confident about UCD's chances in the competitive process.

"I think we had an extremely productive and positive meeting with the folks," she said.

Hinshaw said the meeting with NIAID officials covered a wide range of topics including financial management, administrative issues, design, engineering and technical aspects of the lab. She said she was proud of how well-prepared the UCD team was and how well they responded to NIAID officials' questioning.

"I do anticipate that we will have the opportunity to provide this public health aspect to the people of California," she said.

While UCD officials met behind closed doors with NIAID representatives, protesters sang and chanted in front of Mrak Hall, where many university administrators have offices. Across campus, biolab supporters talked with reporters near the Cowell Student Health Center.

Alex Wallace, 12, Shaelyn Wallace, 10, Jessie Werbelow, 14, and Jaime Dost, 12, held protest signs and wore duct tape across their mouths, symbolizing the NIH's refusal to meet with residents.

Laurie Mason, who brought the pre-teens to the protest, said they talked about the proposed biolab and agreed they don't want it in Davis.

"It would be fine if it was on the outskirts, but I'm not comfortable with it right in the community," Mason said.

Resident Valerie Klein felt the same way.

"I don't think it belongs in Davis. I think it belongs on a military base," Klein said. "This is where I live and I don't want my property values to decrease."

Klein said she opposes building a biolab in Davis because the University of California has a poor track record for managing labs.

Resident Phil Gross agreed and said he attended the protest because "it's important that the NIH get the message somehow."

"This doesn't belong on campus in the middle of an agricultural area and a huge population base," Gross said.

Protesters chanted and sang to get their point across.

"We are trying the only thing we can to let ourselves be heard," said Samantha McCarthy of Stop UCD Biolab Now!

McCarthy noticed a campus police officer video-taping the protest and loudly demanded UCD send the tape to NIH as documentation of public opposition. Police didn't tape the group of supporters across campus.

Paul Pfotenhauer, UCD police spokesman, said police monitored the group of supporters and would have sent the photographer there if anything had happened.

"We tape most demonstrations that occur on campus," he said. "Most police departments now videotape virtually every demonstration they can because you never know when something is going to end up in an arrest situation or something that could turn confrontational. If you do, you want that recorded."

Supporters, who have collected more than 200 signatures in favor of the biolab, are a grass-roots group, but the UC Davis Foundation, which fund-raises for the university, offered its consultant for advice on pro-biolab publicity activities, according to a UCD spokeswoman.

"In my view and in our view, it's extremely important to have a public health laboratory of this type in the Western states and the siting of it at UC Davis is entirely appropriate," said group organizer Sharon Shoemaker, executive director of the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research at UCD.

"I would be much more comfortable as a citizen to have something nearby. I believe it's an acceptable risk; it's safe."

Kalen Gallagher, vice president of the Associated Students of UCD, said there's strong support among students for the biolab.

"If they can cure just one disease, it makes it all worthwhile," Gallagher said.

David Reid, a professor of food and science technology at UCD, said he believes a biolab is needed on the West Coast.

"Davis has the best facilities, the best scientists and it's close to the state capital. It has the best resources to solve the problem," Reid said. "There are problems that exist now; not in some pie-in-the sky future."

-- Reach Crystal Ross O'Hara at  cohara@davisenterprise.net and Sharon Stello at  sstello@davisenterprise.net

Friday, July 18, 2003