Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern

The US government recently released a document entitled, “United States Government Policy for Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern“, available on the NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities website.  From the document, “The purpose of this Policy is to establish regular review of United States Government funded or conducted research with certain high-consequence pathogens and toxins for its potential to be dual use research of concern (DURC) in order to: (a) mitigate risks where appropriate; and (b) collect information needed to inform the development of an updated policy, as needed, for the oversight of DURC.  The fundamental aim of this oversight is to preserve the benefits of life sciences research while minimizing the risk of misuse of the knowledge, information, products, or technologies provided by such research.”

This new policy will expand current reviews for CDC and NIH funded projects (current and proposed).  Risk mitigation plans are now required for any research utilizing select agents (listed on the policy above).  This include H5N1 avian influenza.  These new plans should “Assess the risks and benefits of such projects, including how research methodologies may generate risks and/or whether open access to the knowledge, information, products, or technologies generates risk.”  Modifications of research plans may include how the research is conducted, location (increased security), and responsible communication to scientists and non-scientists.  If mitigation is not possible, voluntary redaction, security classification or funding removal may occur.

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