Education

Scientist Sues University Of Pittsburgh, Claims Monkey Infected With ‘Select Agent’ Escaped Cage

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A former laboratory director for the University of Pittsburgh is reportedly suing the school, alleging she was fired after reporting safety violations, including the escape of an infected monkey.

Upon receiving a tip from a student, Kelly Stefano Cole, who also worked as an immunology professor, said she met with the university’s Responsible Official for Select Agents, according to Penn Record. She told the school official that a fellow scientists’ carelessness allowed a laboratory monkey, infected with a “select agent,” to break free from its cage.

Her concerns were brushed aside, even though, according to Cole, such an incident should be reported to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Environmental Health and Safety Department (EH&S) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an “exposure incident.” Rather, Cole said she was told not to notify anyone else of the incident since it was an “accident,” and purportedly only occurred for a short time — a detail that Cole refutes, arguing that the monkey was actually missing for several hours.

And it wasn’t just an infected primate, as a purposefully contaminated rabbit was also reportedly able to escape at some point. Cole decided to talk to the university’s Director of Biological Safety Committee, but was told yet again to not keep NIH, CDC, or others apprised of what may have happened.

Cole then said she was treated differently by the university and its staff, receiving official complaints about trivial infractions while her peers who did the same were not subjected to any rebukes. Later, Cole alleges she was no longer allowed to use the laboratory in its full capacity, eventually leading to full-scale denial of the premises and many university services, reports Penn Record.

Cole’s lawsuit claims that the educational institution violated the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law when it dismissed her from her role. (RELATED: University Will Receive $506 Million From Apple Because Of Patent Infringement) 

She seeks compensation for damages like lost wages and benefits, as well as harm to reputation and humiliation.

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