WASHINGTON -- The most effective way to prevent the deliberate misuse of biological select agents and toxins (BSATs) -- agents housed in laboratories across the U.S. considered to potentially pose a threat to human health -- is to instill a culture of trust and responsibility in the laboratory, says a new report from the National Research Council. Focusing on the laboratory environment will be critical for identifying and reducing concerns about facilities or personnel.
Mechanisms for fostering a safe and secure laboratory environment include engaged management, risk-based security measures, and appropriate monitoring and management of personnel, as well as training for all researchers in scientific ethics and understanding "dual-use" research that could be misused. Other methods of screening and oversight are incomplete without including the laboratory community in minimizing potential security risks, the report says. Policies and procedures that make select agent research more difficult to conduct, as opposed to more secure, diminish overall security rather than strengthen it.
Individuals cleared for access to select agents and toxins are certified for five years. Many changes can occur during this time, however, including those that impact whether an individual poses a security risk. Therefore, efforts to ensure reliable personnel should come from within the laboratories, the report says, through increased engagement and monitoring by managers and staff. The goal should be that individuals watch out for each other and take responsibility for their own performance and that of others. In a laboratory context, some security measures can also improve safety, if there is involvement of researchers in the process.
BSAT research is presently defined by a list of more than 80 select agents and toxins, developed and jointly regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspect
|Contact: Rebecca Alvania|
National Academy of Sciences