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Briefing Date:09/29/2009
Topic:Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxins

National Research Council
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Board on Life Sciences
Committee on Laboratory Security and Personnel Reliability Assurance Systems for Laboratories
Conducting Research on Biological Select Agents and Toxins


Congressional Briefings
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
SC-6, The Capitol Bldg. – 2:00 p.m.
2318 Rayburn House Office Bldg. – 4:00 p.m.



Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxins


Rita R. Colwell, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; President and CEO, CosmosID, Inc.; and Chair, Committee on Laboratory Security and Personnel Reliability Assurance Systems for Laboratories Conducting Research on Biological Select Agents and Toxins, National Research Council, The National Academies, accompanied by members of the Committee, including Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D., University of Louisville; John D. Clements, Ph.D., Tulane University; Michael G. Gelles, Psy.D., Deloitte Consulting LLP; Sally Katzen, J.D., The Podesta Group; and Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, J.D., University of the Pacific.

Responsible Research with Biological Select Agents and Toxins makes recommendations on the appropriate security measures for laboratories that conduct research using biological select agents and toxins (BSAT), a list of more than 80 dangerous pathogens that pose extreme public health and security risks. The report addresses both physical security and personnel reliability measures developed to protect against external and internal threats. In presenting its conclusions and recommendations, the report draws heavily from research in the natural and social sciences in an effort to focus on those policies and practices that will be most effective and that minimize unintended consequences on the ability to conduct vital scientific research on BSAT.

The report discusses strategies for screening, monitoring, and managing personnel with access to select agents and toxins that are designed to reduce the risk that insiders will misuse BSAT materials for criminal and terrorist purposes—as well as standards for physical security to reduce the risk from external threats. The report also describes the composition of the list of select agents and toxins and procedures for ensuring accountability for BSAT materials. Finally, the report addresses other aspects related to the management of select agent research that will help to facilitate research productivity and promote efficient operation of the Select Agent Program.

The project was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and is responsive to a request from the Working Group on Strengthening the Biosecurity of the United States, which was established by Executive Order 13486.

This briefing was for members of Congress and congressional staff only. The report was publicly released on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 and can be found, in its entirety, on the Web site of the National Academies Press.

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