Ebright: Decisions not to perform specific proposed research projects, or to perform them only after modifications to mitigate risk, are routine. However, no such mandatory review process occurs for research projects that involve the enhancement of a pathogens's virulence, transmissibility, or ability to evade countermeasures--even though such projects potentially place at risk tens, hundreds, or millions of humans.
In 2004, a National Academy of Sciences panel called for a mandatory review process to be implemented for projects that involve the enhancement of a pathogens's virulence, transmissibility, or ability to evade countermeasures. Unfortunately, the panel's recommendations were rejected by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, the panel's recommendations were not implemented by National Institutes of Health extramural research programs, and projects creating new potential pandemic pathogens were funded and performed with absolutely no risk-benefit review. We are now reaping the harvest of these poor decisions.
*Under federal law, bird flu must be investigated within a "Biosafety Level 3" lab, on a scale of 4.
*The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recommended that the journals Science and Nature withhold some details of the bird flu research from publication.
From PBS NewsHour (find the original story here); reprinted with permission.