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Safety inspection concerns surface in research at UW-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Biddy Martin says she'll hire more safety officers to oversee the university's research.

That's after a school committee said the National Institutes of Health might penalize the UW for not complying with federal inspection guidelines.

The Institutional Bio-Safety Committee blamed "gross and chronic under-staffing."

And it warned that the NIH might deny research funding unless the school catches up on its safety inspections.

The Wisconsin State Journal said the lack of staffing has also created a backlog of research studies which are awaiting the required approval of safety protocols.

UW officials say no one is at risk, because other campus agencies still inspect the labs.

But the school's Office of Biological Safety does not have enough inspectors for labs which use biological materials.

That office lost several staff members the past couple years, and it was down to one person last year.

Martin added two safety workers in the last month, and is promising seven more.

Funding would have to come from elsewhere in the UW's budget.

Meanwhile, the NIH has told the UW to review all of its biological safety protocols, after what's called a major action violation by a campus lab involving a treatment that was said to be compromised.

Officials would not say much more, because the affected scientist is being investigated for misconduct.