U.S. looks for university input on new DURC reviews

The U.S. federal government will soon request that university officials comment on how to most effectively implement the newly released dual use research policy at the university level.

Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the announcement at a workshop in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the National Academies. The impending request is the latest response to the controversy caused by two H5N1 avian flu mammal transmissibility studies, Science reports.

"What needs to be ironed out and will be ironed out is how (dual use reviews are) sorted out at the institutional level," Fauci said, according to Science.

On March 29, the government released a new policy requiring federal agencies to systematically review the possible risks of studies involving 15 toxins and pathogens of high consequence. The reviews are meant to reduce risks connected with dual use research of concern that could be used for scientific gain or by bioterrorists. While the new policy only applies to federal agencies, Fauci said that other academic institutions and individual scientists would play an increasing role in reviews of DURC studies. Past expert recommendations have suggested that university institutional biosafety committees should assume a larger role in identifying DURC studies before they start.

University groups have expressed concerns about the implementation of the DURC policy and the process for resolution when scientists and the government disagree. Fauci said that he anticipates a great deal of constructive conversation about the new policy.