Senate committee holds hearing on dual-use research and bioterrorism

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on Thursday on the subject of dual-use research amid the growing concern that such research could be used for the purposes of bioterrorism.

Worries have grown in recent years about dual-use research, which is scientific research that can be used for positive medical and scientific purposes and bioterrorism. Technological advances have given scientists the ability to create synthetic viruses in laboratories, C-SPAN reports.

After the September 11, 2001, terror and anthrax attacks, a report called "Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism" was released in 2003. The National Academy of Sciences report detailed recommendations for the handling of research that was considered dual-use.

The National Institute of Health released its policy on research of this type on March 29 in an effort to apply the recommendations the National Academy of Sciences made in the 2003 report. The implementation of the report has begun and localized policies focusing on the review process are expected to follow.

During the hearing, health and administration officials in infectious diseases and biotechnology discussed the policy and examined methods to make sure the research does not fall into the hands of terrorists.

Witnesses during the hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), included Daniel Gerstein, the Homeland Security deputy undersecretary for science and technology, and Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.