ASM Commends NSABB's Proposed Biosecurity Oversight Framework

Jan. 20, 2023

Washington, D.C. - January 20, 2023 - The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) supports and appreciates the work of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to review and revise policies governing enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research and dual use research of concern (DURC).

The NSABB was charged with reviewing and revising the policies governing ePPP research and DURC, and providing recommendations on a forward-thinking approach to the funding review process for such studies.   
The NSABB, which is comprised of members with significant expertise in science, research methodology, biosecurity and bioethics, has an indispensable role in guiding policies that govern these important issues. ASM recognizes the importance of cutting-edge research on human, animal, and plant microbes as well as our responsibility as scientists to minimize the likelihood that results of experiments with microbes of concern are misused or that these pathogens accidentally escape laboratory containment. We are pleased to see that ASM’s recommendations were incorporated into the report, and we urge swift implementation of the recommended changes by the federal agencies engaged in this work.
ASM maintains the position that international collaboration is essential in all of sciences, including research involving ePPPs.  The U.S. has a robust system of oversight at the institutional, state and national levels. We are glad to see the report recognizes the importance of and seeks to strengthen these efforts, and also recommends that the U.S. government engage the international community in a dialogue about the oversight and responsible conduct of ePPP research and DURC.
As the NSABB recognizes, we also have an obligation to provide leadership and coordination to those conducting this important research in other countries. Diplomacy is essential to success, and we are encouraged that one of the report’s recommendations acknowledges the importance of global collaboration to global health security. We support next steps in this area to ensure international ePPP research in partnership with U.S. funders and entities be coupled to the strict biosafety and security standards that govern domestic research in the U.S.
Additionally, scientific publishers play a critical role in ensuring that this work is carried out and communicated in a manner that should instill public confidence. As one of the largest publishers of microbial science research in the world and as an organization that has implemented a rigorous process for assessing publications involving ePPP and DURC, ASM supports the report’s recommendation to develop and adopt more uniform editorial policies, review processes and best practices for safe communication of sensitive research findings. ASM stands ready to assist the federal agencies in engaging stakeholder groups to move this recommendation forward.
The United States has a strong track record of safely conducting life-saving research and adhering to the most stringent biosafety and biosecurity standards. This has enabled us to lead the world in science and innovation, and we have saved countless lives through the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to target infectious disease threats. Building on this strong scientific and experiential foundation ensures this life saving work can continue into the future in a way that balances benefits with risks. ASM believes that this report’s findings and recommendations can help us do just that, and we look forward to working with governing bodies and stakeholders to achieve our goals.  

The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest single life science societies, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, educational opportunities and advocacy efforts. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.  

Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
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