DURC (Dual-Use Research of Concern) Is Your Acronym Of The Day

" ... the influenza virus research community can no longer be the only player in the discussion of whether certain experiments should be done."  That's the conclusion of Dr. Anthony Fauci in an Op-Ed piece posted today at mBio titled "Research on Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza Virus: The Way Forward". And that controversial "gain-of-function" research, the success of which prompted the moratorium made the focus of Fauci's piece, obviously has potential (mis)uses beyond H5N1. Thus, research on at least 15 pathogens will soon be subject to stricter oversight and regulation.

Elsewhere in mBio you can read persepectives on (1) the "social responsibility of science and scientists" and how to counter "the dark specter painted by the critics of genetic engineering" in "The Lessons of Asilomar and the H5N1 'Affair'"; (2) why the self-imposed moratorium makes this a "historic time for science" and why the onus is now on scientists to demonstrate that the benefits of knowing how viruses become easily transmissible outweigh the risks of knowing how to make viruses easily transmissible in "The H5N1 Moratorium Controversy and Debate"; (3) potential approaches to risk communication about, and containment of, potentially catastrophic transmissible pathogen "escapes" in "Rethinking Biosafety in Research on Potential Pandemic Pathogens"; and, (4) a most enlightening discussion of biosafety levels (BSLs) and the rather unsettling (because it's so obvious once you think about it) conclusion that the staggering proliferation of laboratories (from 415 to 1362 in just four years) operating under BSL3 biocontainment protocols necessarily means that the odds of an "escape" are going up just as rapidly - see "Biocontainment in Gain-of-Function Infectious Disease Research".

While laboratory managers nervously await the order to go to BSL4 with all its attendant headaches, some may find solace in knowing that at least they're not going to have to run things like project Wildfire. Not yet anyway.

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