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The article about Bldg. 33 (NIH Record, Oct. 14, 2003) gives a biased view of the controversy over having this facility on the NIH campus by presenting the position of NIH in great detail while barely mentioning the concerns expressed by neighbors, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and NIH employees. Critical omissions are the fact that people opposing location of the building at NIH have repeatedly said that this type of facility belongs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, and that NIAID is actually building a very similar facility there. In a Montgomery Journal article about the NIAID building in Frederick earlier this year, an NIAID spokesman described it as a joint biodefense effort between NIAID and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, which has been working with agents proposed for Bldg. 33 for 30 years.
NIAID scientific director Dr. Tom Kindt is extensively quoted in the NIH Record article giving reasons why Bldg. 33 has to be on the NIH campus, with the prime reason being the “synergy” of scientists at NIH. He cites the development of AZT as the first drug to fight AIDS as an example of the importance of this synergy. It is rare, indeed, that any research now requires all the people involved to be in close proximity, and a perusal of the affiliation of authors on papers leading to the AZT development shows that contributions actually came from all over the world. Location of an NIAID biodefense facility at Frederick demonstrates that synergy exists outside the NIH campus.
It is not only the neighborhoods near NIH that are concerned about the location of Bldg. 33 at NIH. Many NIH employees share those concerns. Employees may be reluctant to publicly speak out against their employer, but describing them as “a group of NIH scientists” in the NIH Record unfairly minimizes the impact of this building on those who work at NIH.
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