Tag Archives: Policymaker

ASM Statement in Response to COVID-19 Hearing

ASM Statement in Response to COVID-19 Hearing

Statement from the American Society for Microbiology 
in response to the 
House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Hearing: 
“Investigating the Origins of COVID-19” 

March 8, 2023 

On behalf of our 30,000 members in the United States and around the world, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) shares the following points in response to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic’s hearing to discuss the origins of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.     

ASM supports a science-based, open and comprehensive inquiry into the origins of the pandemic. We are encouraged that government and intelligence agencies continue their due diligence in the investigation.  The conclusions we draw about the origins of COVID-19 will inform the future of high-consequence pathogen research around the world and pandemic preparedness here in the U.S., so it is crucial that we conduct a free, open and complete inquiry and do not draw premature conclusions. Because pathogens know no borders, we also urge international collaboration, to the extent possible, in the search for evidence and answers. 

Novel pathogens with the ability to infect humans have emerged at an increasing rate over the past twenty years. Many threaten global health, but none more so in recent memory than SARS-CoV-2. In addition to novel pathogens, we must address seasonal threats with pandemic potential such as influenza, and recurring epidemic threats such as Ebola. Whenever such threats emerge, questions arise as to how the event happened. Understanding how an epidemic or pandemic starts helps us better prepare for future pandemics. It is essential to lead with science in order to achieve the most complete and accurate understanding of how infectious diseases emerge and spread.  

As such, we offer the following points for consideration: 

  • The United States is the world leader in life sciences research, including basic, clinical and translational research focused on pathogens and infectious diseases. Congress must continue to support the U.S. research ecosystem through a strong federal funding commitment, coupled with policies that enable innovative public private partnerships. By doing so, we can continue promising research to understand how viruses emerge and are transmitted; how they can be prevented, detected, and monitored; and, when they cause disease, how they can be diagnosed and treated. Without continued research in these areas, we will not be able to prevent or even prepare for future pandemics.


  • When this work involves working with enhanced potential pandemic pathogens (ePPPs), it must be accompanied by safeguards and conducted under strict biosafety and biosecurity measures in laboratories at the appropriate biocontainment safety level (BSL).  The American public can have confidence that research conducted on ePPPs in the U.S. adheres to the highest standards that set the bar for countries around the world. We have an impeccable track record in this country and recognize the need to continually refine and update standards. But for this leadership to continue, Congress must invest in the network of high containment laboratories to ensure that the infrastructure is sound, laboratorians are appropriately trained, and the work is conducted with minimal risk to both those working in the lab and to the general population.


  • Research on disease-causing microbes is necessarily international. As we have seen all too clearly, viruses know no borders. Many of the viruses emerge at the animal-human interface outside of the U.S., so the health and security of the American public depends on transparent research collaborations and sharing of samples and genomic sequencing information with other countries. Work outside the U.S. needs to occur at a biosafety level comparable to that which is applied domestically to reduce risk of lab accidents. With diplomacy and American leadership, ASM believes it is possible to both protect national security and work with governments and researchers in other countries to ensure that this work is being conducted safely. We all want the work to protect people throughout the world, and we need the information to anticipate and detect threats. 

We thank the Subcommittee for consideration of our views. ASM is committed to assisting the Committee, its members, the Congress, and the Administration as the U.S. continues to recover from and consider lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.  


The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.  

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences. 

ASM Commends NSABB’s Proposed Biosecurity Oversight Framework

ASM Commends NSABB’s Proposed Biosecurity Oversight Framework

Washington, D.C. – January 20, 2023 – The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) supports and appreciates the work of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to review and revise policies governing enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research and dual use research of concern (DURC).

The NSABB was charged with reviewing and revising the policies governing ePPP research and DURC, and providing recommendations on a forward-thinking approach to the funding review process for such studies.   
The NSABB, which is comprised of members with significant expertise in science, research methodology, biosecurity and bioethics, has an indispensable role in guiding policies that govern these important issues. ASM recognizes the importance of cutting-edge research on human, animal, and plant microbes as well as our responsibility as scientists to minimize the likelihood that results of experiments with microbes of concern are misused or that these pathogens accidentally escape laboratory containment. We are pleased to see that ASM’s recommendations were incorporated into the report, and we urge swift implementation of the recommended changes by the federal agencies engaged in this work.
ASM maintains the position that international collaboration is essential in all of sciences, including research involving ePPPs.  The U.S. has a robust system of oversight at the institutional, state and national levels. We are glad to see the report recognizes the importance of and seeks to strengthen these efforts, and also recommends that the U.S. government engage the international community in a dialogue about the oversight and responsible conduct of ePPP research and DURC.
As the NSABB recognizes, we also have an obligation to provide leadership and coordination to those conducting this important research in other countries. Diplomacy is essential to success, and we are encouraged that one of the report’s recommendations acknowledges the importance of global collaboration to global health security. We support next steps in this area to ensure international ePPP research in partnership with U.S. funders and entities be coupled to the strict biosafety and security standards that govern domestic research in the U.S.
Additionally, scientific publishers play a critical role in ensuring that this work is carried out and communicated in a manner that should instill public confidence. As one of the largest publishers of microbial science research in the world and as an organization that has implemented a rigorous process for assessing publications involving ePPP and DURC, ASM supports the report’s recommendation to develop and adopt more uniform editorial policies, review processes and best practices for safe communication of sensitive research findings. ASM stands ready to assist the federal agencies in engaging stakeholder groups to move this recommendation forward.
The United States has a strong track record of safely conducting life-saving research and adhering to the most stringent biosafety and biosecurity standards. This has enabled us to lead the world in science and innovation, and we have saved countless lives through the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to target infectious disease threats. Building on this strong scientific and experiential foundation ensures this life saving work can continue into the future in a way that balances benefits with risks. ASM believes that this report’s findings and recommendations can help us do just that, and we look forward to working with governing bodies and stakeholders to achieve our goals.  


The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest single life science societies, composed of more than 30,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, educational opportunities and advocacy efforts. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.