The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) on Jan 27 endorsed findings and recommendations from two of its working groups, one that focused on oversight of potential pandemic pathogens and the other that examined policies regarding dual-use research of concern (DURC).
DURC refers to experiments that can be used for good or ill.
The draft report was endorsed with minor modifications. The NSABB, made up of outside experts, advises the US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on policies related to federally funded research on potential pandemic pathogens. In February 2022, the government asked the NSABB to look at both issues, and on Jan 20, the two working groups delivered their draft findings and recommendations.
One of the key findings was that the definitions of potential pandemic pathogens and enhanced versions of them are too narrow, focusing too much on "highly transmissible" and "highly virulent." And the work group that looked at DURC said government policies have resulted in stronger oversight, but its framework applies only to a small fraction of life sciences research.
In a statement, NIH Director Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, praised NSABB members for their thoughtful and careful consideration of the important policy issues and thanked scientists and the public for their input.
The NIH said federal officials will consider the report as part of its review of oversight frameworks for potential pandemic pathogen and DURC activities, after which it will announce the next steps in the review process.