e-Public Policy Update - March 2012

New Dual Use Research Policy Now Available
US Government Issues Policy on Oversight of Life Science Dual Use Research of Concern
On March 29, the US Government issued a new policy to conduct oversight of dual use research, following controversy stemming from experiments on avian influenza. The polcy requires agency scrutiny of certain categories of research that involves a list of select agents and toxins, including highly pathogenic avian influenza and the 1918 reconstructed influenza virus, to evaluate and address risks. The purpose of this Policy is to establish regular review of United States Government funded or conducted research with certain high-consequence pathogens and toxins for its potential to be dual use research of concern (DURC) in order to: (a) mitigate risks where appropriate; and (b) collect information needed to inform the development of an updated policy, as needed, for the oversight of DURC. The fundamental aim of this oversight is to preserve the benefits of life sciences research while minimizing the risk of misuse of the knowledge, information, products, or technologies provided by such research.

ASM Statements to Congress on Fiscal Year 2013 Science and Public Health Funding
The ASM submitted statements to Congressional Appropriations Committees on Fiscal Year 2013 funding for federal agencies that support biomedical, environmental, agricultural research and public health. The statements supporting funding for research and public health programs at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy are available on the ASM web page: Research and Development Funding for FY 2013.

ASM Signs onto Coalition Letters Supporting Funding for the National Institutes of Health
The ASM signed onto two coalition letters as members of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research. The first letter urged Congress to provide the largest possible 302(b) allocation to the FY 2013 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee within the discretionary cap established by the Budget Control Act (BCA) and was sent to Chairs and Ranking members of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. To read the letter go to: http://www.asm.org/images/pdf/Policy/302b.fy2013.final.pdf.

The second letter requested that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) be recognized as a critical national priority and to urge the Congress to provide it with at least $32 billion in funding in the FY 2013 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. The letter was sent to the chairs and ranking members of both the House and Senate Subcommittees on Labor-HHS-Education. To read the letter go to: https://www.aamc.org/research/adhocgp/032612.pdf.

ASM Supports Agriculture Research Funding
In February, ASM as a steering committee member of the AFRI Coalition, partnered with other member organizations to write and distribute a letter to Congress urging funding of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $325 million in FY 2013. This letter, sent to the House and Senate agriculture committees and the House and Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittees, highlighted the importance of agricultural R&D research to combat current and emerging threats as well as the outstanding economic return on investment it provides.

ASM Comments on NIH RFI on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce
The ASM submitted comments on February 24, 2012 to the National Institutes of Health on the Request for Information (RFI): Input into the Deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce. The NIH sought input on issues related to the Biomedical Research Workforce Pipeline, including transition points where NIH’s training, career development and research grant programs could most effectively cultivate diversity in the biomedical research workforce, the role of mentorship in the training and success of biomedical researchers throughout their careers, the influence of role models whose qualities and characteristics can positively affect the training and success of underrepresented biomedical researchers, the role of NIH messaging in encouraging underrepresented researchers to apply for NIH fellowships and grants, the role of institutional infrastructure support and climate as a factor in the success of underrepresented researchers and the NIH grant review process. The Public and Scientific Affairs Board Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities developed the ASM’s comments which are available on the ASM web page at: February 24, 2012 - ASM Comments on NIH RFI on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce.

ASM Comments on Recreational Water Quality Standards
On February 21, the PSAB Committee for Environmental Microbiology, Chaired by Gary King, submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the proposed Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) for management of all US inland, costal and great lake waters designated for primary contact recreation. ASM commended the EPA for improvements made to the list since its development in 1986 and the use of epidemiological studies and the development of new methods to ensure the best science is reflected. The ASM also raised concerns and offered recommendations to the EPA on ways to further improve the RWQC to further promote public health and limit human exposure to high or risky levels of microbial contamination that can result in illness. A copy of the letter can be found: February 22, 2012 - ASM Comments on Draft Recreational Water Quality Criteria.

ASM Attends Clinical Laboratory Meetings

On March 12, PSAB Professional Affairs Committee chair Vickie Baselski attended the Coordinating Committee for the Clinical Laboratory Workforce (CCCLW) in Chicago, IL. The CCCLW is focused on increasing the number of qualified clinical laboratory professionals, increasing healthcare and public awareness of the value of laboratory professionals in achieving positive patient outcomes, and enhancing the image of clinical laboratory professionals. One of the many topics on the agenda for discussion is the CCCLW participation in the Labs Are Vital™ program. For more information on Labs Are Vital™ and how this program serves clinical laboratory professionals, please see http://www.labsarevital.com/html/main.isx. Yvette McCarter, member of the PSAB Committee on Laboratory Practices, participated in the Joint Commission’s March 1 Laboratory Professional and Technical Advisory Committee (LAB PTAC) quarterly conference call as the ASM representative. One announcement of note was the addition of an at large informatics representative to the committee.

ASM Cosponsors National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week
National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW) is an annual celebration of the more than 300,000 medical laboratory professionals whose vital role affects decision making in nearly every aspect of health care. NMLPW, which began in 1975, takes place the last full week in April each year and is coordinated by a collaborative committee with representatives from 13 national clinical laboratory organizations, including ASM. This year’s celebration took place between 22-28 April. To read more about NMLPW and for ideas, please see http://www.ascls.org/?page=NMLPW

ASM Joins CDC and APHL in a One Day Forum on Campylobacter
ASM, CDC and APHL are jointly sponsoring Forum on the Development of Best Practice Laboratory Guidelines for Campylobacter Diagnosis June 26 in Atlanta, GA. This forum will bring together clinical, public health, and commercial laboratory professionals, clinicians, and epidemiologists to review available data on diagnostic tests for Campylobacter. It will also facilitate the establishment of an action plan for development of the guideline.

ASM Cosponsors The Royal Society Meeting on H5N1 Research
The Royal Society will be holding a meeting, “H5N1 Research: Biosafety, Biosecurity and Bioethics” April 3 – 4, 2012 at their headquarters in London. The American Society for Microbiology is a sponsor of the meeting and is sending Kenneth I. Berns, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Public and Scientific Affairs Board Committee on Biodefense as a representative. Information about the meeting, including an agenda and how to register is available on the Royal Society’s website: http://royalsociety.org/events/2012/viruses/. The complete program is available by clicking here.

New York Academy of Sciences Meeting
The New York Academy of Sciences is holding a meeting, “Discovering Antibacterial and Anticancer Therapeutics in Unexpected Places” on April 4, 2012. Research into obscure organisms can aid drug development from unexpected angles. Speakers discuss the use of quorum sensing to develop anti-microbial agents, and a potential therapy for human melanoma discovered in the study of fungal melanin. The program features Bonnie Bassler, Ph.D., past president of the ASM and Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., editor of ASM’s open access journal mBio©. For more information on the meeting and to register go to: http://www.nyas.org/Events/Detail.aspx?cid=0bc3d6a4-e954-4288-b5eb-f441940d6bf0.

House Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on Public Access to Research
The House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held an oversight hearing to examine various models for disseminating federally funded research and their corresponding effects on the scientific process. With the federal government funding 31 percent of research conducted in the country, access to the outcomes of the research is of significant interest to scholarly journals, researchers, and taxpayers who want access. For more information go to: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-investigations-and-oversight-hearing-examining-public-access-and-scholarly.

Big Data” Initiative Makes 1000 Genomes Project Data Available on Amazon Cloud
The Obama Administration recently announced a “Big Data Research and Development Initiative,” which aims to improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and interpret discoveries from the ever increasing volume of digital data. The initiative involves the public-private collaboration of six Federal departments and agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among other contributions to the initiative, NIH will post the world’s largest set of data on human genetic variation, produced by the 1000 Genomes Project, on Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. The project’s data set is equivalent to 16 million file cabinets or 30,000 standard DVDs. By posting on the cloud and providing free access, researchers will be able to access data that they previously did not have the computing power to use.

Find the OSTP blog post at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/29/big-data-big-deal

Find the White House press release at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/big_data_press_release_final_2.pdf

Find the NIH press release at: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/mar2012/nhgri-29.htm