Certain types of life science research involving “high consequence pathogens and toxins” would be subject to new review and risk mitigation procedures which might include classification of the research or termination of the funding, according to a U.S. government policy issued yesterday by the National Institutes of Health.
The policy applies to research involving 15 specified biological agents and toxins which “pose the greatest risks of deliberate misuse with most significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effects to the economy, critical infrastructure or public confidence.”
Research that increases the lethality or transmissibility of the agent or toxin, or otherwise enhances its harmful consequences, will be subject to the new review procedures.
Based on the outcome of the review, a risk mitigation plan may be developed. If less restrictive measures were deemed inadequate, the new policy would allow for national security classification of the research or termination of government funding.
See also “U.S. Requires New Dual-Use Biological Research Reviews” by David Malakoff, Science Insider, March 29.
Phi Beta Iota: Nice but inadequate. The government is paying lip service to this necessary precautionary principle. If they were really serious, such a policy would encompass all agricultural and industrial processes without exception.
Charles Perrow, The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011)