By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday it has named a new acting director of its select agent program following a string of lab incidents involving dangerous pathogens.
The agency, which has pledged to overhaul its lab safety programs, said Dr. Robbin Weyant, who formerly led the agency's select agent program, will now serve as a senior advisor in its newly formed Office of the Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety.
In September, the CDC tapped Dr. Stephen Monroe, a longtime lab scientist and agency insider, as the CDC's first permanent associate director of lab safety, a new high-level position reporting directly to the CDC's Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden.
Creating a new high-level safety position was a key recommendation of a months-long internal investigation into the mishandling of anthrax, bird flu and Ebola in CDC labs in 2014, according to an internal CDC memo obtained by Reuters last December.
Dr. Daniel Sosin is now serving as acting director of the select agent division, according to a CDC statement. The CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins is charged with developing regulations for hundreds of labs that work with select agents and with investigating the mishandling of these substances.
Sosin was deputy director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, according to the CDC website.
An agency spokesman would not elaborate beyond the CDC's written statement or answer any questions about why it made the personnel changes, which were first reported by USA Today.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Julie Steenhuysen; editing by G Crosse, Mohammad Zargham)