Dual-use research of concern (DURC) issues in the life sciences

What is DURC and why is it important?
For scientists working with highly pathogenic organisms, biosecurity, biosafety and bioethics concerns need to be anticipated and considered before conducting research. As distributors of viruses and virus-derived materials, the EVAg consortium is aware that, although researchers have well-intended applications, we must be mindful that some viral material can be used or applied to cause harm if materials or technologies are purposefully misused. This poses a so-called “dual-use” threat (i.e. can be used for good or for bad purposes).

Dual-use research of concern (DURC) in the life sciences is defined broadly as research that could provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied, cause harm and pose a substantial threat with broad potential consequences to human, animal and plant health, the environment, or national security. Thus, DURC studies pose an important ethical and safety considerations for the EVAg consortium. Some examples of DURC include Gain of Function (GoF) and Loss of Function (LoF) experiments. While GoF experiments aim to produce the gain of a desired function (e.g. a modified viral strain that is resistant to a vaccine), LoF want the opposite, the loss of the ability of a desired function. The misuse of DURC research findings and associated new technologies or materials can be either accidental or intentional. The misuse can be at both a national and international level.

TIP: If you are confused about what dual-use, dual use research and dual-use research of concern means, we suggest you watch the short film created by the Biosecurity Office of one of our valuable EVA partners, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands (RIVM).

What is the EVA-GLOBAL consortium doing to address DURC issues?

As a decentralized globally distributed biobanking infrastructure we believe one of the best ways to foster compliance with international regulations is to enhance awareness and education among our partners and end-users. However, we also recognize that due to the global distribution of our partners, there is a broad range of levels of awareness and existing institutional policies to address these issues.

To our consortium members, we provide support through internal training opportunities and user-friendly material to assess DURC components in their research projects.

To the broader academic community, we provide biosafety and biosecurity training opportunities at our various member institutions, check out our ‘service products’ in the catalogue. Our proactive approach to compliance with international regulations allows us to provide material and services of the best quality to our end-users.