Although safety concerns are present with any human pathogen—and environmental concerns with plant and animal pathogens—inclusion of an item on the list of select agents and toxins means that it poses a security risk—namely, there is reason to believe that it could be used as a potential bioweapon.
Stated another way, the requirements for select agent research, including both personnel reliability and physical security, are motivated by—and indeed, designed to enhance—security, not safety. There is no need for security strategies unless security is the predominant consideration. Addition of unnecessary procedures will inevitably slow the development of vaccines and therapeutics—and even the public health response in the event of a biological emergency—with the unintended consequence of making the public less safe.
With these considerations in mind, the committee takes as a guiding principle that items on the list of select agents and toxins should be limited to those materials that there is reason to believe could be used as a potential biothreat agent. In addition, there should be reason to believe that enhanced security could reduce the risk of that agent being used as a bioweapon. Discussion throughout this report takes this observation as a given, and all conclusions and recommendations are based on interpreting the list of select agents and toxins—whatever its composition—as those items that pose a legitimate security risk.
PRINCIPLE 4: Policies and practices for work with biological select agents and toxins should promote both science and security.
It is common to talk about the need for a “balance” between science and security. However, this committee rejects the notion that science and security are inversely related and that there is an inherent tension between these two elements. While there may be specific circumstances when a particular action conducted to enhance security may be seen at odds with the conduct of scientific research, the two aims are not fundamentally opposed. Rather, the policies that support science and those that promote security operate in different but overlapping spheres. The goal for this report and for the community is to optimize the mix of policies that promotes both high-quality science and appropriate security.
PRINCIPLE 5: Not all laboratories and not all agents are the same.
As described in Chapter 2, there is significant diversity among those institutions that conduct BSAT research. Academic, government, and private-sector select agent laboratories span a wide range in mission, size, type of research, level of activity, and many other characteristics. Colloquially, “if you’ve seen one lab, you’ve seen one lab.” While this phrase may downplay the common elements found in multiple environments, it is critical to acknowledge that each