Until recently, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) served as the country’s highest level review body for novel biotech research safety questions. But NIH disbanded it last year. That leaves, in most circumstances, the frequently dysfunctional local Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) to be the first – and last – line of defense against really stupid ideas and screw ups.
I recently wrote a piece on the RAC’s demise for Third World Network. It’s intended for an international audience, but should work just fine for interested people at home as well. The seven page paper describes the RAC’s historical role in biotech oversight and the curious decision to disband what, in many eyes, was the centerpiece of biotech research oversight in the Unites States and an influence – in the US interest – around the world.
It also describes the committees that purportedly replace the RAC, namely the talk shop NExTRAC and the highly secretive P3CO.
With the RAC’s demise, the US oversight system for lab safety is weaker than ever, and the paper concludes with a number of recommendations – such as mandatory licensing for risky types of research – for how the crumbling US system could be bolstered.
Better to do it now than to wait for a lab-triggered pandemic.