Kaka'ako biosafety lab has some key benefits
The Kaka'ako site pegged for Hawai'i's $47.5 million biosafety lab has some true advantages, in addition to the cutting-edge research that would occur there.
The lab would sit adjacent to the University of Hawai'i medical school, fostering a natural relationship with its research and encouraging unique teaching opportunities.
Above all, given Hawai'i's geographic isolation and proximity to Asia, the lab would better position us to diagnose and withstand an epidemic.
"When an exotic pathogen comes here it has to be sent to the Mainland for diagnosis. When you're dealing with pathogens, a week can mean thousands of cases," says Dr. Duane Gubler, director of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine. "Having the lab here means a quick turnaround in diagnosis — time is everything in an emergency."
Still, it's crucial that the concerns of residents and community leaders are addressed. While it's true that the new lab would be near a rapidly growing urban area of homes and businesses, there's no reason it could not be a suitable neighbor.
Similar labs are in far more densely populated areas, including Washington, D.C., downtown Atlanta and Boston.
The facility must meet stringent federal and state safety standards.
For the project to thrive — as it should — an unwavering commitment to take no shortcuts and put public safety first is needed from the get-go.