WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federation of American Scientists joined over 30 leaders in the scientific, medical, public health, research, and science policy fields in providing a set of recommendations regarding oversight of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research and dual use research to the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB). Research involving potential pandemic pathogens can provide significant benefits to society but, if done incorrectly, can also contribute to pandemic risk.
The recommendations aim to diminish the risk that U.S. science could inadvertently initiate epidemics or pandemics, clarify the scope and decision-making process associated with governance of ePPP research and dual-use science, increase transparency around U.S. policy and decision making on these issues, and minimize or eliminate disruption of science work that does not pose these risks.
“Without proper governance, dual use research can be as dangerous as it is illuminating. The U.S. government must revise its decision-making process to protect scientists and the public,” said FAS CEO Daniel Correa. “Bio innovation and pandemic prevention are not disparate aims, and finding the balance between them can enhance pathogen research responsibly and foster innovation.”
The letter highlights five primary recommendations to improve the guidance and implementation of governing research related to dual use and ePPP pathogens including:
- Modify and expand the scope of pathogens governed by the ePPP Framework to include criterion of research that could lead to another pandemic not currently accounted for in the framework – including modest virulence, enhanced virulence and transmissibility regardless of the starting pathogen, and oversight of sequencing viruses.
- Assess and detail risks and benefits to provide guidance on when benefits of research would outweigh the risks, including detailed risk and benefit factors.
- Clarify and restructure processes of review, communication, biosafety and biosecurity, and transparency to include involvement of more stakeholders, preventing conflicts of interest, and overall more transparent standards and guidelines.
- Expand the reach of the ePPP Framework to apply to non-federally funded research and be implemented by all U.S. government agencies, as well as to strengthen international outreach.
- Revise the policy for dual use research of concern (DURC) to include additional pathogens, types of experiments, and clarify risk assessment and mitigation plan requirements.
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