Senate Committee Questions Federal Officials About Dual-Use Research Of Concern Procedures
"Spurred by events surrounding two controversial H5N1 transmission studies, a U.S. Senate committee [on Thursday] questioned federal officials whose agencies have a stake in dual-use research of concern (DURC) about the procedures they use to spot possible bioterror threats," CIDRAP News reports. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs "hearing marked the first time officials have testified before Congress on the issue, and follows concerns raised in recent letters to federal officials by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who has questioned the Obama administration's safeguards on DURC and has inquired about allegations of bias that arose following an expert group's recommendation that helps clear the way for publication of the two papers," the news service notes (Schnirring, 4/26).
"At the hearing, officials involved in making the decision to publish the research were queried about a letter that was leaked to the press two weeks ago," in which "Michael Osterholm, a member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), accused the U.S. government of stacking the decks in favor of full publication during a crucial closed door meeting in March," Nature writes (Maher, 4/27). "Part of the board's decision-making process included a classified briefing from the National Counterterrorism Center and other members of the intelligence community," Paul Keim, acting NSABB chair, said, according to CQ HealthBeat. "Although he could not go into detail, he said that the briefing left many of the board's members with the impression that the risks of redacted publication would be minimal, while the international political consequences of not publishing could be great," the news service writes (Margetta, 4/26). "Some attention was paid at the hearing to a recent policy announcement on March 29, which many see as a stopgap measure to address some of the concerns the fight over these papers has raised," Nature writes, noting officials have until May 18 to respond to the "pointed questions" posed in Sensenbrenner's letters (4/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.