Publication Title:

Structure and Important Recommendations of the Fink Report: An African Perspective


The threat of biological weapons and biosecurity has been addressed by policy makers for several years. The major challenge has been balancing the potential gains from life sciences research and the security risk generated by such research. Consequently, the subject, now popularly referred to as dual-use
research, is prominent especially in the life sciences and the international community.

In the recent past, the life sciences community has played an important role in mitigating the bioterrorism threat by making recommendations, including development of oversight schemes, self-regulation of research activities and development of ethical codes (Shea, 2007).

One outstanding effort, in the United States, was by the National Academies which convened the Committee on Research Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Application of Biotechnology. The committee’s task was to consider ways of minimizing biosecurity risks without hindering the progress of life sciences research (Shea, 2007). The Committee, chaired by Dr. Gerald Fink of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, met between April 2002 and January 2003 and gave a report popularly referred to as the Fink Report. The official title this report is “Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism.”

Herein dual-use research is defined as “biological research with legitimate scientific purpose that may be misused to pose a biological threat to public health and/or national security (Department of Health and Human Services (2004). The broader definition of biosecurity is also adopted, which is the range of policies, mechanisms, regulations and initiatives that also included export controls, laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, biodiversity, GLP, GMP and
national implementation of Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC) including the obligation to create national legislation relating to biosecurity and diplomacy that together minimize the possibility of misuse of biological agents but maximize the benefits of their benign applications. Also adopted herein is D’Agustino’s, (2009:27) definition of the life sciences community as that which encompasses universities, medical and veterinary schools, nongovernmental
and governmental biomedical research institutes, trade associations, and
biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.’

In this treatise of the Fink Report, the structure and important recommendations in order of importance from an African perspective are discussed.

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