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2015 Futures Fellow Leads DURC Workshop in Lahore, Pakistan

July 18th | Lahore, Pakistan

In collaboration with the University of the Punjab, HSP co-hosted a workshop on dual-use research of concern (DURC) where 40 PhD students engaged in DURC case study and risk assessment discussions and conceptualized how DURC concepts relate to their own research projects. This event is part of a larger HSP-supported initiative seeking to assess graduate students’ attitudes and awareness of DURC. The ongoing initiative stems from a proposal that Samreen Sarwar, a 2015 Futures Fellow and now technical advisor, developed at the 2015 Health Security Futures Fellowship Training Institute, a weeklong launch to a yearlong fellowship that partnered students from Pakistan, Iraq, and the United States to develop and implement innovative, local health security projects. Last year, she led a pilot survey among the university’s microbiology and molecular genetics graduate students to identify gaps in the understanding and application of DURC concepts, the results of which were used to design this workshop.

Ms. Sarwar led an overview of DURC and presented case studies, including the reconstruction of the 1918 pandemic influenza and de novo synthesis of polio virus, among others. Participants engaged in in-depth discussions to identify the risks and benefits of each research project, the potential consequences of intentional misuse, and the projects’ applications to research in Pakistan. Overall, participant understanding of DURC concepts improved from 38.5% pre-workshop to 97.5% post-workshop. The PhD students reacted positively to the prospects of future DURC trainings within Pakistan, identifying a clear gap in knowledge of this topic among graduate research students. This workshop marks the first of a series of HSP-supported DURC workshops that will take place at universities in Pakistan over the next year.

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