Agatha Christie at the biosafety lab

If I took anything away from Monday’s dedication of the New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory at Tufts, it’s this: when I get around to writing a murder mystery, I’m setting it inside one of these.

Seriously. If you look at the place through a demented writer’s eye, it’s just chock full of ways to not only off characters but also dispose of their bodies. I haven’t quite figured out how to handle the excess security and I may need to up the biohazard level up to a 4 for more dramatic deaths (Ebola has satisfying organ liquification. West Nile’s a bit more lingering and plot-wise, that’s a problem), but hey, it’s all a work in progress.

If you’ve never been inside during its various stages of construction, sorry guys — Monday was your last chance at a tour. The place is shut tight now in preparation for its opening as a fully contained facility geared toward studying Level 2 and Level 3 organisms — life threatening, nasty buggers that require all kinds of safety gear and prep.

For example, there are showers located outside the labs. Can you imaging having to strip down and scrub — not the before-pool run in and run out, actually scrub — while clocking in and out of the office every day? They didn’t look terribly private, either, and I’m guessing you don’t get to bring in loofahs and body wash to make it more spa-like. I guess scientific knowledge comes with a lack of personal modesty.

But what captured my imagination were the giant autoclaves, which we mistook for elevators, and the biodigester. You could easily dispose of a body in that biodigester because… well, that’s what it’s designed for. The lab animals who enter the biosafety lab aren’t ever going to leave the building alive — too much risk of contamination — and the biodigester is there to make sure no critters are living on the animal even when it’s dead. It’s a mini-crematorium — my group took a peek inside to see the ash and bits of bones left in the aftermath.

Oh, I’m sorry. You’re not eating now, are you?

We need a plot. I’ll set the scene.

It was a dark and stormy night and a sinister presence stalked the mysterious windowless brick building, set high on a hill on land that once housed a hospital for the insane…


5 thoughts on “Agatha Christie at the biosafety lab

  1. Wow This lab is a long time coming! I remember them talking about Bio
    companies coming to Grafton in 1990!

  2. Outside, a group of hapless, ice cream eating, teenagers sat inside a beat-up Honda with a missing hood ornament and a rejection sticker, dimly aware of what fate was about to bestow them. Actually, they were dimly aware of pretty much anything. Had they parked in the wrong place? At the wrong time? …Again?

  3. I love it… but I think you’re waaaaay too busy to write a murder-mystery now, Jenn!


  4. What’s that saying? If you want to get something done, ask a busy woman?

    The ground shook, but it was only the 5:48 p.m. commuter rail train. True, it was nearing midnight, but it was not angry commuters who were creeping about the grounds, bent on biologic mayhem….

  5. Oh, yeah, I bet this poor lady is laughing too after working in her Bio lab last month …

    Especially the “mortality rate of around 90 percent” prognosis.

    Maybe that lab wasn’t a ‘Biosafety lab?’

    Ebola Researcher in Germany Is Isolated After Needle Puncture

    By Patrick Donahue

    March 17 (Bloomberg) — A researcher at a Hamburg laboratory was punctured with a needle that may have contained traces of the deadly Ebola virus and was transferred to an isolation ward following inoculation treatment, the clinic said in a statement.

    The university clinic in Hamburg-Eppendorf, which is treating the woman, ruled out any danger to the public, according to the e-mailed statement. Ebola is an animal-borne virus that causes high fever, diarrhea, vomiting and internal bleeding.

    The woman, a scientist at the Bernhard-Nocht-Institut for tropical medicine, was punctured through protective clothing while in a high-security laboratory on March 12. Though she showed no signs of infection, a group of experts recommended an inoculation treatment developed in the U.S., the clinic said.

    The virus strain with which the unidentified woman had been working has a mortality rate of around 90 percent. She was put into isolation after developing a fever 24 hours later, and doctors were examining whether the high temperature resulted from the treatment or from an Ebola infection.

    The World Health Organization said Feb. 18 that an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo had killed 15 people.

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