August 12, 2020

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Community reps meet on lab safety

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/5/2009 (4107 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG — A community liaison committee will meet with staff of the National Microbiology Lab today to probe how a former researcher was able to walk out of the high-security federal facility with 22 vials of biological material.

Audrey Vandewater, co-chairwoman of the committee, said representatives meet with the lab’s scientific director Dr. Frank Plummer and a communications official at noon.

Vandewater said the meeting was scheduled before the recent controversy erupted, but members want to probe whether new exit protocols should be developed.

"I think it’s really important to know it was not a threat or risk to our community because the material was not infectious and was from a Level 2 lab," Vandewater said this morning.

"Still, it’s a concern, and there are a lot of unanswered questions."

Committee representatives are appointed by the federal government, and can make recommendations to Plummer.

Last week, a former researcher was arrested by FBI special agents at the U.S. border when customs officials discovered 22 vials of stolen biological material from the National Microbiology Lab.

Court documents allege the man said he stole the vials on his last day of work at the lab in January.

No one from the Winnipeg lab noticed the vials were missing for close to four months. RCMP alerted the lab of the incident on May 5, when the researcher was taken into U.S. custody.

The lab has not reported the incident to Winnipeg Police.

Konan Michel Yao, 42, faces U.S. criminal charges for smuggling and is currently in the custody of a U.S. marshal.


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