A U.S. Senate committee recently questioned federal officials whose agencies deal with dual-use research about procedures they use to spot potential bioterror threats.
The questions were spurred by recent events surrounding two controversial, independent H5N1 transmission studies that created potentially dangerous strains of the illness, according to CIDRAP News.
The Senate committee hearing was the first time officials have testified before Congress on the issue. It was prompted by questions raised in letters to federal officials by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
In the letters, Sensenbrenner questioned the Obama administration’s safeguards on dual-use research and inquired about allegations of bias that arose after an expert group cleared the way for the studies to be published.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), is considered the Senate’s chief oversight committee. Lieberman is the only member who questioned witnesses during the hearing, CIDRAP News reports.
Federal officials who testified included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Daniel Gerstein, the deputy under-secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security.
Witnesses included Dr. Paul Keim, the acting chair of the Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, and Dr. Thomas Inglesby, the chief executive officer for the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.