An appeal for thoughtful regulation of infectious disease research

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COVID-19 killed nearly 5 million people worldwide, and the crisis caused uncertainty about both the origin of the virus and how to respond to future pandemics. Much of the uncertainty swirls around responsibility and risk: how should scientists now study infectious diseases? Experts in various fields such as political science, arms control, and biology are calling for tighter corporate regulation, and some are calling for the complete end of certain areas such as “gain of function” research. I have.

However, other lawmakers are asking them to consider a more subtle and thoughtful approach.In the commentary released this week mBio, Two researchers with decades of experience in high containment Laboratory He argues that the approach to new regulation requires careful consideration of existing practices, past experience, and both human and economic costs.

Most importantly safety The security of lab operations should be left to the leaders of the research organization, not government-level agents. “Near the bench, not the beltway,” they wrote in the commentary.

“”[Organizational leaders] Dr. Dave Franz, a former commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute in Frederick, Maryland, co-authored a new commentary with Dr. James Le Duc. .D, Former Director of Galveston National Laboratory, Texas. It contains several Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories. The BSL-4 facility will investigate. Infectious agent High risk of life-threatening disease..

In the commentary, Franz and Le Duc said that high containment lab leaders have a long history of safely managing potentially dangerous research projects in their organizations without catastrophic consequences. .. “If you have good management in education and training and you are focused on safety transparency When ethics, I believe you can reduce accidents, “Franz said.

“Many people who think tightening regulations is the way forward doesn’t run high-containment labs,” Franz said. For example, regulating BSL-3 and -4 laboratories in the same way as nuclear laboratories does not work due to the dramatically different properties of the subject material.

Lack of experience in biology laboratories could create new rules that put more strain on businesses rather than minimize harm, Franz said. “It’s hard for governments to make subtle differences, but before they come into force, we need to think about the costs and benefits of regulation,” Franz said. “They often don’t think about the cost of dollars, time, or the cost of driving young people out of their profession.”

However, leaders within the organization can establish an environment of trust and respect, Franz said. “If you work in a healthy organization, your boss has an open door, and you trust your leadership, which can reduce harm.”

Scientists are not opposed to regulations and regulations that mitigate risk, but at the same time Policy maker Be careful when considering additional unnecessary or ineffective regulatory burdens. “We hope we continue to think thoughtfully,” Franz said.

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For more information:
David R. Franz et al, Technology Advances, High-Risk Research, and a Safe Way Forward, mBio (2021). DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.02373-21

Journal information:

Quote: “Closer to the bench than the beltway”: A call for thoughtful regulation of infectious disease research (October 26, 2021) from https: // Acquired on October 26, 2021. Appeal-thoughtful.html

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