State to regain management of Hinton Lab

May 23, 2014
By

Management of the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain, which was the site of the state drug lab scandal, is  switching from the hands of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) to the state. In essence, the state is becoming the landlord of the institute.

The Gazette was first made aware of possible changes at the Hinton Institute by JP resident Bernie Doherty.

The Hinton Institute, which is located at 305 South St., was the site of a drug-evidence testing scandal in 2012, where former chemist Dookhan was caught deliberately mishandling evidence in thousands of criminal cases and lying about holding a master’s degree. She pleaded guilty last year.

The drug-evidence lab was shut down and remains closed, its worked moved to another facility outside Boston. But other state Department of Public Health (DPH) labs operate within the State Lab building. Their work includes testing suspected bioterrorism materials, checking racehorses for doping, and examining animals for rabies and West Nile Virus.

“The proposal to transfer the control of the Dr. William A. Hinton State Laboratory located in Jamaica Plain to the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) is a routine building transfer that will allow DCAMM to manage and perform maintenance on the property,” said Meghan Kelly, spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance, in an email to the Gazette.

She said that the move is part of Gov. Deval Patrick administration’s effort to “improve and integrate the management of state-owned facilities.” Kelly said operations at the facility will not be affected.

It is unclear what will go in the empty UMMS space and whether the transfer of management will cost or save the state money.

Mark Shelton, spokesperson for UMMS, said that the transfer has its roots from state legislation back in 1996 that gave the school control of operations at the Hinton Institute, including MassBiologics, which manufactures vaccines and other biologic therapeutics.

“That legislation contemplated that UMMS would oversee the eventual move to a new facility for MassBiologics, now in Mattapan,” he said in an email to the Gazette.

Shelton said that the transition first began in 2005, when the Mattapan building came on line.

“The last MassBiologics activities on the Jamaica Plain campus transferred to the Mattapan campus about ten months ago and since then, we’ve been working cooperatively with the state to transition the management of the JP campus to the commonwealth,” he said.

UMMS will continue to operate the New England Newborn Screen program at the Hinton Institue, as it works closely with DPH, according to Shelton. He also said UMMS will continue to operate a small research and training program for lab professionals at Hinton Institute.

Language that will authorize the transfer was filed in a supplemental spending bill that was approved by the state Legislature earlier this month and awaits the governor signature, according to Kelly.