Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tulane University poised to end civilization as we know it

Today, from City Business, we learn the following.

Tulane dedicating $27.5M biosafety lab

COVINGTON - Tulane University plans to dedicate a $27.5 million biosafety laboratory Friday within the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington.

A ceremony will be held at 9 a.m.

The new facility will create approximately 60 new jobs with $2.2 million in annual payroll, creating an expected $42 million economic impact on the region during the next five years.

The Primate Research Center is one of only 13 National Institutes of Health-supported Biosafety Level 3 laboratories in the country and the only one affiliated with a primate research center, medical school and school of public health and tropical medicine.

Biosafety Level 3 is a national designation for labs built with strict safety standards to study airborne contaminants and infectious diseases.•

Great, you say. Tulane is keeping us on the cutting edge of biomedical research... and they don't even have to knock over an entire historic New Orleans neighborhood to do it.

Not so fast. Let's review the "strict safety standards" in place at the Tulane National Primate Research Center.... something we've been keeping our eye on for some time, by the way.

Tulane Hullabaloo October 30, 1998 (via The Wayback Machine):

Twenty-four Indian rhesus monkeys housed at the Tulane Primate Center in St. Tammany Parish escaped on Oct. 18.

All but one of the monkeys were recovered three days later. One female monkey is unaccounted for.

According to Dr. Peter Gerone, director of the Primate Center, the monkeys are housed in a quarter-acre chain-link catch pen that encloses a smaller pen. By jiggling the lock, the monkeys apparently opened the gate which leads from the chain-link catch pen to the outside.

So in 1998, the "strict safety standards" were such that they could be defeated by a monkey jiggling a lock. Certainly, after this incident, procedures were reviewed, measures were taken and.... uh oh.

CNN March 12, 2003:

COVINGTON, Louisiana (AP) -- Two dozen monkeys escaped from a research center and holed up in a forest, where animal-control workers used bananas and oranges to try to lure them out.

The monkeys are classified as disease-free and posed no health risk to humans, but workers trying to capture the animals wore protective gowns and gloves as a standard precaution, said Fran Simon, a spokeswoman for the Tulane Regional Primate Center.

What the hell, is this some kind of annual Tulane fraternity prank or something? If so, It's probably a step up from crab boil hazing but even so you'd think the Primate Center would take this more seriously. I mean, I don't want to tell anyone how to do their jobs but... Jesus Christ!

WWL May 10, 2005

COVINGTON -- More than 50 monkeys escaped from the Tulane Primate Center late Monday evening, leaving authorities with the daunting task of tracking down and catching the animals.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, officials said 47 of the monkeys had been captured while 6 managed to continue to elude authorities by hiding in the heavily wooded along Three Rivers Road.

Mike Aertker, spokesman for the Primate Center, said the monkeys were being used solely for breeding purposes, and had not been subjected to experiments of any kind.

I am glad to see the spokeperson take a moment to inform the public that the monkeys are "disease-free" after each incidence of mass escape. I find that reassuring. Almost as reassuring as the addition of a $27.5 million "biosafety lab" to this disaster-prone facility. I hope some of that money goes toward buying a new jiggle-proof lock.

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