could include the use of functional genomics as it pertains to understanding microbial virulence; host susceptibility and resistance to infectious diseases of plants, domestic animals, and humans; and relevant aspects of the development of new drugs, vaccines, and anti-infective therapies.
To be well informed, the reviewing body must be part of a network for information exchange among academe, industry, international actors, and U.S. government agencies, including those in the intelligence and security community. Coordination of efforts in all arenas, including the international community and those involved in assessing and responding to threats, would provide a means of evaluating the significance of advances in genome research in terms of both increased threats to security and improvements in understanding of the environment and of human health and disease. As an additional benefit, providing a network for information exchange would help to further research in disease diagnosis and epidemiologic surveillance on a national and global basis and facilitate communication of information required for the unambiguous identification and attribution of pathogens in forensics.
There are many factors to balance in determining where the proposed reviewing function should be based. One option is the newly proposed NSABB announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on March 4, 2004. The NSABB is asked to “advise all Federal departments and agencies that conduct or support life sciences research that could fall into the dual use category (www.biosecurityboard.gov).” However, it may not be feasible for that group to manage the necessary continuing review of genome information while acting on establishing guidelines for the oversight of biological research. In any event, the partnership and full participation of each of the relevant agencies is crucial to ensure that all the available information and insight are used. The entity that becomes responsible for reviewing scientific advances in genome science for their potential effect on national security must be scientifically respected, have the ability to integrate information from diverse sources, and have a clear ability to influence discussions in numerous federal departments and agencies.
Recommendation 4: The committee endorses Recommendation 7 of Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism, which calls for an international forum to unify the discussion on the effect of genomics on biosecurity.
Life-science research is global, and no single nation can successfully implement policy concerning access to and release of life-science data and results without reference to the rest of the international community. For that reason, it is of the utmost importance that the international community establish a common understanding of security concerns and shared