Any research institution that receives federal funding will soon have to screen certain kinds of scientific experiments to see if the work could potentially be misused to endanger the public.
The new policy will take effect next year, and it’s the latest effort by the U. S. government to come to grips with so called “dual-use” biological research—legitimate medical or public health studies that could reveal how to make already-worrisome germs or toxins even more destructive.
Only a small number of experiments are expected to raise this type of concern; one official said a recent review of already-funded research found only a handful of projects. But some of this research, including a lab-altered bird flu virus, has proven hugely contentious, with scientists sharply divided on whether it should even be done.
The required review covers work that involves a list of 15 nasty toxins and pathogens, such as Ebola and anthrax, and seven categories of sensitive experiments that scientists sometimes call “the Seven Deadly Sins.” These include studies that could make a germ more deadly or contagious, or that would let it evade existing treatments or diagnostic tests.
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