Dual-use animation

Do you know the difference between dual-use, dual-use materials, dual-use research and dual-use research of concern?
And how export control relates to these terms?

This animation explains the terminology used for dual-use in the life sciences.
The term dual-use means that knowledge, information methods, products or technologies generated for peaceful and legitimate purposes
may be misused for harmful purposes.

A dual-use example is a kitchen knife, that can be very helpful when cooking. But can also be misused to injure someone. Dual-use
research refers to well-intended research that can also be misused, such as how to sharpen a knife.
The physical material being studied is called dual-use material. In this case, the knife and the knife sharpener.
Life science research is essential for medical, biological and agricultural developments. However, research activities intended
for beneficial use could also be applied for harmful purposes. An example of dual-use research in the life sciences is certain gain-of-function research that aims to modify biological materials
to acquire new phenotypic characteristics such as increased transmissibility or drug resistance.

Research requires only minor or no modifications to be misapplied for harmful purposes is called dual-use research of concern : DURC
An example of DURC is the reconstruction of the flu virus causing the influenza pandemic in 1918. The study intended to obtain fundamental
knowledge to advance medical sciences. However, the publication of the genetic sequence and the reconstruction method has the potential to facilitate misuse.
Knowledge, information, methods, products or technologies with dual use potential can be subject to a set of regulations overseeing the export of security
sensitive items or knowledge. This is called export control. Export control concerns both tangible goods and so-called intangible technology transfer.
This is controlled by national regulations. The EU export regime and international agreements. Just like dual-use itself export control applies not only to life sciences but for example, also to chemistry and radiology.
Identifying dual-use potential can be challenging and starts with awareness of the various terms.

For more information about dual-use consult your Biorisk Management Advisor or visit the biosecurity office website.

Background information

The animation describes the concepts of dual-use, dual-use research, dual-use material, dual-use research of concern (DURC), gain-of-function research and export control and how they relate to each other. The definitions below are derived from the WHO definitions as published in the WHO Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences: mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research

Dual-use Knowledge, information, methods, products or technologies generated by peaceful and legitimate research that may be appropriated for non-peaceful or harmful purposes.
Dual-use research Research conducted for peaceful and beneficial purposes that has the potential to produce knowledge, information, methods, products or technologies that could also be intentionally misused to endanger the health of humans, nonhuman animals, plants and agriculture, and the environment. In the context of this framework, it refers to work in the life sciences, but the principles are also applicable to other scientific fields.
Dual-use research of concern Dual-use research of concern (DURC) describes research that is conducted for peaceful and beneficial purposes, but could easily be misapplied to do harm with no, or only minor, modification. This term has generally been used for research in the life sciences. DURC encompasses everything from information to specific products that have the potential to create negative consequences for health of humans, nonhuman animals, plants and agriculture, and the environment.  
Gain-of-function research Research that results in the acquisition of new biological phenotypes, or an enhancement of existing phenotypes. Gain-of-function research that is anticipated to enhance the transmissibility or virulence (or both) of potential pandemic pathogens raises significant biosafety and biosecurity risks, as well as dual-use concerns that may warrant additional oversight.


National and international experts and organizations in the field of biosafety, dual-use and export control of dual-use goods were consulted for both the animation and the script. The content has been compiled with the utmost care, and every effort has been made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. Nevertheless, errors or incorrect interpretations may occur in the video. This video is for informational purposes only for students and professionals in the life sciences dealing with biosecurity, biosafety and dual-use aspects. The content of the video is not intended to offend, be discriminatory or cause any form of harm. We accept no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, damages or negative consequences that may arise from the use or interpretation of the content of this animation.

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