The Select Agent Program and dual use research of concern: their effects on the regulatory environment of pandemic influenza studies
The threat of pandemic influenza is one of the largest areas of concern for the 21st century, because of population and globalization. The effects of a serious pandemic were clearly seen in 1918 and the world narrowly missed a modern catastrophe when the low-morality, but highly contagious, H1N1 Influenza circulated the globe.
Currently, H5N1 Avian Influenza represents the largest threat with regards to influenza, but should H1N1 mutate into a more lethal variety or H7N9 continue to spread, the results would be disastrous. There are a variety of factors that are associated with prevention and mitigation of a potentially lethal pandemic. Within the United States, research of deadly influenza is being conducted amid controversy. The two main camps of debate, science and security, both have legitimate points and valid claims for why they are correct. The United States government is tasked with attempting to have the best of both worlds in regards to biosecurity as witnessed with the Select Agent Program. The recent H5N1 study controversy renewed public and government interest for "dual use" research. The government is tasked with trying to permit scientific freedom while simultaneously minimizing risk of dangerous information dissemination. Because of the complexity of the situation, an ideal regulatory environment is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to create.