News Release

Strengthen oversight of risky research on pathogens

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

A recent guidance framework by the World Health Organization “reminds us of the continued lack of awareness and governance structures in many countries for life sciences research that may cause harm through accident or misapplication,” say Jaspreet Pannu and colleagues in this Policy Forum. Pannu and colleagues are specifically referring to “dual use research of concern” (DURC), which outlines life sciences research that may be misapplied to pose a substantial biosecurity threat, and work proposing to enhance potential pandemic pathogens (ePPPs). The authors identify substantial gaps in biosecurity policies around DURC and ePPP studies and suggest approaches to address these gaps, including expanding the scope of pathogens to be governed by ePPP review to even those with modest virulence (like the virus that caused COVID-19 is) and making assessments of risks and benefits of DURC and ePPP work available to the public. “It is vital to get these policies right,” say the authors, “not only for the US, but to inspire policy development in other countries with growing life science and biotechnology sectors.”

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