Citizens needed for oversight committees for biotechs working in recombinant DNA

Free training sessions planned for May 10 and May 16

The Cambridge Public Health Department seeks volunteers to serve as community representatives on institutional biosafety committees. Most committees meet once a year.

A two-day training for interested residents and other stakeholders will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. May 10 and May 16 in the Macht Auditorium, in a free-standing brick building on the Cambridge Hospital campus at 1493 Cambridge St., Mid-Cambridge.

The Cambridge Biosafety Forum will cover basic molecular biology, emerging gene-editing technologies, biological risk assessment, and the role of the community representative on a committee. Attendees will also observe a mock committee meeting.

Cambridge residents interested in serving as community representatives can attend at no charge.

Since 1981, firms and academic institutions engaged in certain biological research and manufacturing in Cambridge have been required by local law to have an institutional biosafety committee to provide local review and oversight of research involving recombinant DNA – making Cambridge the first community in the world to establish direct citizen oversight of biological research. In 2009, this authority was extended to include higher risk non-recombinant infectious disease research. For information about biosafety oversight in Cambridge, click here.

“With the increasing number of biotechs in Cambridge, it is especially important for residents to participate in the oversight process and represent community biosafety interests,” said Sam Lipson, the department’s director of environmental health. Lipson noted that Cambridge is already home to more than 130 biotechs.

Biosafety committees must include two community members, one of whom must be a Cambridge resident. People working in the biotechnology industry can serve as an IBC community representative for a firm or institution that holds a Cambridge biosafety permit, provided that they do not have financial ties to the biotech.

To register for the training or learn more, click here. To ask additional questions, contact Sam Lipson at slipson@challiance.org.

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