NIH DURC Stakeholder meeting 30 June 2022
This is an index and summary of the NIH stakeholder meeting. It mainly took input from people that are responsible for implementing biosafety in various academic institutions. The full video can be found at
Feedback and corrections most welcome, to firstname.lastname@example.org
- None of the invited speakers ever discussed the elephant in the room — Covid 19. The word was only spoken once in whole video, and then said to be zootonic.
- The public comments absolutely mentioned Covid 19, calling for serious action.
- The speakers seemed to genuinely care about biosafety but only within their institutions. Calls to tighten regulations, and provide more resources for people like themselves. They seemed very close to researchers and did not want to impact research.
- There was a frightening note of the “Democratization of Biotechnology” and “Community Biolabs”. This technology is becoming widely available outside academia, and is not well regulated if not federally funded. Most Ph.D.s do not go on to work in academia. DIY Chimeras.
- They want to have the public to have more trust in science. (Having burried the Origin of Covid!!)
Index and notes
0:00 Introduction by Lyric Jorgenson Acting Assoc Director Science Policy NIH
Research essential but research with infectious agents also involves risk. Balance required.
USG polices start 2022. DURC highes risk research.
Institutions not receiving federal funding not covered by policies.
13:00 Session Gerald Parker. Chair.
19:08 James Le Duc. Too much focus on 15 listed dangerous pathogens [does not include Coronovirus!] Must be broader. Should focus on experiments that enhance transmissability. Should broaden to be implemented by other countries. And institutions outside academia. DURC approval too slow. Focus should be more bottom up. Le Duc does intensive risk assessments. US Government has spent $1 Billion on biocontainment in academic campuses, should make available to others.
31:50 Jill Taylor DURC OK but needs to be broadened. [Accidentally] mentioned Covid-19, zootonic! Should Focus on synthetic biology. General surveillance, e.g. wastewater, not specific pathogens. Screen airports etc.
43:50 Maria Chavez Safety of community biolabs, not in the scope of DURC. BSL-1. Goal to democratize biotech. Biotech more widely used, including synthetic biology. Need to lead other nations. DURC weak because only federal funded labs, but many other labs. Build up a culture of responsibility. “DIY”, startups.
55:40 Drew Endy Standford students used community labs during lock down. WHO approach: research on live Smallpox simply banned. Trust is important. Need to manage risk as democratic.
1:05:00 Questions. Real challenge beyond academia. Need to broaden beyond bio people.
1:26:00 Session 2.
1:33:00 Kalpana Rengarajan No “select agents” but SARS-2? But avian flu? So new to DURC. DURC a useful framework. Communication to the public important. Need to distinguish non-pathogenic virus vs pathogenic virus. Perception of dangerous research done in secret.
1:43:20 Joseph Kanabrocki Uni Chicargo — biosafety committee that reviews experiments. Redact some info (not much) due to security. Not intrusive to research.
1:56:10 Simon Anthony looks for unknown viruses in bats, ability to infect people. Undefined risks, not officially DURC. Scope DURC needs expanding. Many other biosafety requirements than DURC. (No thought about whether looking for unknown viruses is a good thing to do!)
2:00:00 Discussion. Lack of standards, per institution.
2:19:30 Public comments.
2:21:05 Richard Ebrite. Lapses may have caused the current Covid-19 pandemic. US government funded high risk GoF research. Avoided GoF restrictions. Also avoided PC30 framework. Performed at BSL-2. So new system of oversight is essential. Oversight should not be by funder or researcher, inherent conflict of interest. Needs federal review, not just institution based. 15 pathogens of concern does not even include Coronoviruses. DURC only covers federal funding. Needs force of law. List of pathogen does not include Coronoviruses. Need force of law.
2:24:30 David LoVecchio. Physicists had known sin. Move dangerous research away from cities. Eco Health wrote avoidance of regulations into their contract, bad. Need consequences for non-compliance. Do these comments make any difference?
2:28:00 Anthony Berglas. Zero research would be better than Covid 19. Evidence for lab leak, Obviously a lab leak. Strong statement. Major major disaster. Major reform needed. No sense of urgency here.
2:32:00 Arron ? Vague.
2:35:35 Paul Sykes Covid worst disaster in last century. Essential to determine Origin. Transparency NIH critical. Need to get to origin. Lots of redacted emails. “Conspiracy Theory” painted whole scientific community in a bad light. Massive conflict of interests. Predictive models no merit.
2:40:00 Breaks. But comments are listened to…
2:41:50 Session 4
2:44:10 David Gillum. “Came down with something that has been circulating within the community” so not in person (Covid?!!). DIY genome engineering. Synthetic viruses (from libraries). Beyond academia, beyond government funding. Hates biosafety to limit useful research. Not enough biosecurity experts. NIH should fund biosecurity centers of excellence. Penalties for abuse? (There are for “Select Agents” but not for DURC.)
2:59:50 Christopher Viggiani Talk of general risk e.g. Worker Safety, not focus on pathogens of pandemic potential!
3:23:00 Jennifer Kuzma Biosafety on agricultural & ecology. Danger of gene drives. Evaluations of policy. Need social scientists on risk committees conflicts. Need to improve public confidence.
3:36:20 Discussion. Risk assessment only from academia, most Ph.D. leave academia. E.g. Saudies funding aging research, philanthapy. How to control others use of tech. Concerns if too much bureaucracy, overlap between different government regulators, policies should be combined.
3:53:00 Closing discussion.