Critical national biodefense research could be delayed starting November 12, according to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), unless the federal government delays implementation of new regulations intended to boost security of dangerous biological agents and toxins. However, federal agencies, scrambling to keep up, said the problems are being addressed.

In a pair of letters dated October 23, the ASM requested that the secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture push back the effective date for full compliance with Title II of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002—currently November 12—to give the government more time to vet researchers who wish to work with select agents and to inspect the laboratories in which such work will be performed.

Once Title II, the so-called "select agent rule," is fully implemented, any researcher who has not been cleared to work with select agents will be...

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