NIH Seeks Input on Proposed Revisions to the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines)

NIH is seeking public input on a proposal to revise the NIH Guidelines to strengthen biosafety practices for research involving gene drive modified organisms (GDMOs) in contained research settings.  Part of the proposal seeks to: 

  • Clarify the minimum containment requirement for research involving GDMOs; and 
  • Articulate considerations for risk assessment and define institutional responsibilities for Institutional Biosafety Committees and Biosafety Officers.  

These proposed changes are consistent with recommendations contained in the Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee (NExTRAC) report, Gene Drives in Biomedical Research.       

The full proposal can be found in the Federal Register.  Public comments will be accepted on the proposal until October 10, 2023. Comments must be submitted using the electronic comment form.

Additional context on the NIH proposal can be found in the latest Under the Poliscope blog at:

Questions may be sent to  Also, please consider following us on Twitter @NIH_OSP

Turning Listening into Action: A Proposal to Strengthen the NIH Guidelines

As an unrepentant policy fanatic, I love talking about details, whether it be the implications of a strategically placed “shall” or where data should be in controlled access. However, most of the time, policymaking requires being a good listener.  Listening is an underrated skill and is more than just waiting for your turn to speak.  Typically, the scientific, ethical, legal, and social issues at the forefront of biomedical research are so complex that it is essential we turn to experts and members of the public to hear their perspectives before we can develop a policy responsive to their needs. Listening to this input and incorporating it into policymaking is vital to our work and to ensuring our policies hit the mark.

A recent case study in listening involves the Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee, or as we like to call them, the NExTRAC.  In 2020, we asked this committee to think through the different scenarios that may be used in gene drive research to advise on whether/how we should think about updating our existing biosafety policy framework.  During its deliberations, the Committee also did a lot of listening, consulting with subject matter experts, and holding a public workshop. Ultimately, the NExTRAC produced some very thoughtful recommendations in its final report to the NIH.

Based on our internal deliberations and the NExTRAC’s recommendations, NIH is turning this listening into action by proposing some policy updates. The proposal is to revise the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines) to strengthen our infrastructure for ensuring this research continues to proceed responsibly. Specifically, the proposed revisions would incorporate specific considerations and requirements for NIH-supported research involving gene drive modified organisms in contained research settings. 

It is important to emphasize that all the proposed actions at this time focus on working with gene drive modified organisms in contained research settings. This research is already performed around the globe in labs with biosafety precautions in place. However, as technology evolves, we must make sure that our policies keep pace. Thanks to the work of the NExTRAC, we believe this proposal will allow researchers to safely proceed with contained gene drive research.  I encourage all interested stakeholders to view the full proposal and provide us with your feedback.  Comments on the full proposal will be accepted until October 10, 2023, and must be submitted electronically.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric

An Invitation to Our Upcoming Workshop on Maximizing NIH’s Levers to Catalyze Technology Transfer

The importance of bringing people together to inform policy is a mainstay of OSP’s policy approach. For instance, as the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, we have been thinking carefully about our role in making federally-funded inventions more accessible to the public – and how to bring all parties to the table to make sure we get it right. The issue of access to new drugs and treatments is of paramount importance to nearly every member of the public, and NIH is key in driving the knowledge underlying their development. However, the ecosystem that supports the process relies on a broader group of actors, including partnerships across academia, non-profits, industry, patient groups, and more to make it a success.

Under this lens, the agency is hosting a workshop on July 31 to discuss NIH policies and practices that shape biomedical innovation and promote equitable access. This is an ideal time to have a transparent and focused discussion on how NIH as a research institution approaches the patenting and licensing of biomedical inventions, especially considering the outsized role we can play in advancing lifesaving treatments and economic growth.  For example, a recent study of the NIH intramural research program found that technologies licensed from NIH helped avert over 25,000 deaths from cervical cancer between 2008-2019 while also generating about 75,000 employment positions between 2001-2021.  While these numbers are impressive, NIH is concerned about the rising costs of healthcare products, and we equally realize that our agency cannot achieve its mission if people cannot access the products that emerge from our work.

Through this workshop we hope to discuss best practices and lessons learned so that we can continue doing the things that work and course correct the things that are sub-optimal.  We will also be excited to hear new ideas from meeting participants about things we could try to enhance the impact of NIH’s patent licensing program. Importantly, we invite public participation in this workshop.  The agenda will feature a 45-minute public comment session and NIH will also accept written comments from members of the public both before and after the workshop.  Full details including the agenda, webcast information and how to submit public comments can be found on the OSP website. I am looking forward to the discussion and I hope you will be able to join us.  By working across disciplines and maintaining open lines of communications with our stakeholders we can improve health, spur innovation, increase equitable access, and fulfill the mission of the NIH.

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric

A Few Notes on the Importance of Public Feedback

June is often a time of year when thoughts turn to celebrations like Father’s Day and graduations.  However, at NIH, when we think of June, we are gearing up for the bi-annual meeting of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD).  While prepping for this meeting definitely takes some work, the real fun begins at the meeting when the discussion energizes new strategic initiatives or drives solutions for some of the most pressing issues facing NIH. 

For those of you who tuned in to last week’s meeting of the ACD, you probably heard that NIH has an ambitious policy agenda.  These presentations included a briefing on NIH’s progress regarding public access, a review of recent requests we have received from researchers to access the whole HeLa genome sequence from dbGaP, updates from my co-chair on the Clinical Trial Stewardship Task Force, Dr. Debara Tucci, and a status update from one of our newest ACD working group (WG) looking at the issue of Novel Alternative Methods (NAMs). 

The big news with respect to NAMs is that we have published a request for information (RFI) to help inform the ACD WG’s deliberations. If you missed the conversation, the ACD WG is working to identify areas in which the development and use of NAMs provide the most value to biomedical research. In particularly, we are interested in learning from the research community how NAMs are currently being used to study human biology, circuits, systems, and disease states; approaches for catalyzing the development and validation of new NAMs; and strategies for maximizing the value of NAMs in research.  We are accepting comments until September 5 and full information on how to comment can be found at:  Also, make sure to be on the lookout for more information about a workshop we will be holding on NAMs later this summer.

At this point, you may be wondering what impact commenting on our RFIs has on the policy development process.  To be perfectly frank, RFI feedback is an essential component of policymaking and responding to RFIs is one of the most important ways to directly shape NIH policy.  When we release an RFI we are not only telegraphing our current thinking on future policy directions, but also road-testing policy provisions so you can tell us what we got right and – perhaps most importantly – what we didn’t think about. By providing your thoughts and insights you can unambiguously tell us whether we are on the right track or whether you think we have missed the mark and need to go back to the drawing board.  As a matter of policy, OSP posts all the comments it receives on our RFIs on the OSP website.  Posting these comments reflects our commitment to stakeholders that we consider every comment we receive.  In addition, by proactively posting these comments, stakeholders can easily and transparently follow the entire policy development process.

So, what is helpful to include in public comments? First, when providing feedback, it is important to be as specific as possible.  This level of specificity is essential to help us understand your thinking. Anyone who has an Amazon account knows that the tendency is to respond only when your shipment was late, but we need to know both what works and what doesn’t.  It can also be helpful to describe what types of information might be helpful to make implementation more seamless. Take for instance the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy. As a result of public comments, we developed multiple supplemental information materials due to community requests.

In summary, we ARE listening, and we DO want to hear from you. Public feedback on our proposals is essential, and we want to ensure that we maximize the opportunities for our stakeholders to tell us their thoughts.  With that said, I look forward to seeing not only your thoughts on our NAMs proposal, but on all our future proposals as well. 

Note this post was updated to reflect a new closing date of September 5, 2023 (Original Date: August 16, 2023)

Lyric Jorgenson, PhD
NIH Associate Director for Science Policy
About Lyric