Netherlands revamps biosecurity rules

The Netherlands is overhauling its biological regulatory rules after Dutch scientists modified an avian influenza virus to be more contagious as part of a study.

An official with the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry recently said the new policy will be comprehensive. Ayse Aydin, an official with the security policy department of the ministry's nonproliferation and disarmament division, said the rules will take into account the lessons learned from an ongoing controversy over the H5N1 avian flu research conducted by virologist Ron Fouchier, Global Security Newswire reports.

The new policy would account for security-related issues and compliance with international conventions.

Aydin said the authors of the policy would consider findings from a December report by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Dutch body recommended the creation of a new government panel that would issue nonbinding guidance on proposals to conduct studies with dual-use applications.

"We are absolutely willing to continue our discussion when the new biosecurity policy has been completed," Aydin said, according to Global Security Newswire.

The policy change is the result of an ongoing controversy connected to Fouchier's so-called "gain-of-function" research at the Erasmus Medical Center. Gain-of-function studies deliberately modify disease agents that do not yet exist in nature. Fouchier's team modified the H5N1 virus so it could more easily bind to cell receptors in mammals.

Researchers say gain-of-function studies are necessary to fight possible future forms of disease.

The new policy is expected to be made public at one of two multilateral gatherings connected to the Biological Weapons Convention, a meeting of experts on August 4-8 or a meeting of states parties on December 1-5, Global Security Newswire reports.