The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled plans to impose special protective requirements for laboratories housing any of 11 agents or toxins on a newly established list of high-risk biological materials.
The changes to the select agents list require more stringent precautions at scientific facilities holding any of the newly designated "Tier 1" agents, which include anthrax, Ebola, Marburg virus and plague. The revision demands in part that affected installations establish an auxiliary power mechanism and no fewer than three physical "security barriers" for agent holding areas, as well as institute procedures limiting agent access to federally vetted personnel.
Establishment of the tier encompassing the most dangerous potential tools of bioterrorism was required under a 2010 presidential executive order.
The update requires "Tier 1" agent sites to conduct advance investigations of individuals under consideration to receive access to the materials. It also increases the minimum frequency for federal background probes of personnel in the sensitive positions, requiring checks at least once every 36 months rather than one time in each five-year period.
Affected institutions would have 180 days to comply with the new standards. Facilities housing such agents "in many cases ... already employ some or all of the required measures,"the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in the notice due to appear on Friday in the Federal Register.
The rule change "allows for the optimization of security measures for those select agents or toxins that present the greatest risk of deliberate misuse with the most significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effects to the economy, critical infrastructure or public confidence," the notice states.
Separately, the agency refined auditing requirements for all select agents. The revision requires workers to check any select agent holdings following transit, any recruitment or termination of a key manager, and after the disappearance of any assets overseen by a specific person.
The revision designates Charpare, Lujo and SARS viruses as select agents while striking a number of other biological materials from the list.