September 23, 2014

Statement on USG Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern

Life sciences research benefits almost every aspect of our daily lives, leading to improvements in medicine, agriculture, environmental quality, and our national security. In particular, NIH-funded research has yielded information and technologies that have been used to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. The U.S. Government and the scientific community however, have recognized that in rare instances there can be the potential for the information or products generated from these technological advances to be misused. This is known as the dual use dilemma.

Today, the U.S. Government issued the final U.S. Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern, which articulates the responsibilities of institutions and investigators to identify and manage the risks associated with DURC. DURC is life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security.

This policy aims to preserve the benefits of life science research while minimizing the risk of misuse of the products of such research. Toward that end, the U.S. Government consulted extensively with the scientific community, the security and intelligence communities, and the public-at-large, including an opportunity for the public to comment on a draft policy for institutional oversight of DURC. Institutions subject to the policy will have one year from the policy issuance date to implement the provisions of the policy and the U.S. Government has developed resources and guidance including a comprehensive Companion Guide, to assist them in this process.

The issue of DURC is a shared responsibility between the U.S. Government and institutions receiving funding for life science research. Thus, this policy complements a March 2012 policy, which described the responsibilities of federal agencies in addressing DURC. Together, these two policies will help ensure the risks associated with DURC are monitored and mitigated appropriately throughout the research process.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health