MIT established the Committee on Assessment of Biohazards (CAB) in January of 1975 in response to public concerns regarding newly established recombinant DNA technology.  The initial charge to the Committee was oversight of research involving recombinant DNA technology and potentially hazardous biological agents.  The CAB has voted to extend its purview twice since 1975.  In 1995, the CAB voted to extend its purview to include oversight of research utilizing human materials such as human cells, tissues, blood, and prions.  In 2005, the CAB voted to extend its oversight role to include human embryonic stem (hES) cell based research.  The name of the committee was altered to reflect this new responsibility. The CAB became the Committee on Assessment of Biohazards and Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (CAB/ESCRO). 
The CAB/ESCRO oversight process is based on the requirement that all biological research that falls within the committee’s purview is registered, reviewed and approved on an annual basis at meetings of the CAB/ESCRO. The CAB/ESCRO Review and Approval Process is based on the completion and submission of the Biological Research Registration Form to the EHS Office Biosafety Program (BSP). The Biosafety Program provides administrative support to the CAB/ESCRO. The Deputy Director for BSP serves as the Institutional Biosafety Officer and contact person for the CAB/ESCRO.

At MIT, the CAB/ESCRO must give annual approval for the continuation of all biological research involving:

  • recombinant DNA technologies and synthetic nucleic acids
  • human, animal or plant pathogens including prions
  • primary human cells, tissues or materials
  • established human cell lines
  • human embryonic stem (hES) cells and induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells
  • use of biological agents at BL1 or greater including viral vectors
  • nanoparticle-based nucleic acid or drug delivery systems

The Committee has developed policies establishing guidelines for the safe and responsible conduct of biological research in the laboratory and the use of various biological materials in animals. The CAB/ESCRO along with the Biosafety Program work with the MIT Medical Department's Occupational Health Program to determine the necessity for immunizations, medical monitoring, or health surveillance for personnel involved in biological research projects.