Restricted Experiments FAQ's

  1. How do I submit a request for approval to conduct a restricted experiment?

    A request for approval to conduct a restricted experiment should be submitted by the entity's Responsible Official and sent to the entity's Federal Select Agent Program file manager. The request will be reviewed by the Federal Select Agent Program. We recommend that it not be submitted as part of an amendment as doing so may delay approval of other changes proposed in the amendment while the restricted experiment request is under review.

  2. What should an entity submit to the Federal Select Agent Program when requesting approval to conduct a restricted experiment?

    A request for approval to conduct a restricted experiment should be submitted by the entity's Responsible Official and sent to the entity's FSAP file manager. The request will be reviewed by FSAP. We recommend that it not be submitted as part of an amendment as doing so may delay approval of other changes proposed in the amendment while the restricted experiment request is under review.

    Submit a cover letter signed by the entity's Responsible Official, on entity letterhead, requesting approval to conduct the restricted experiment, along with the following information (if applicable):

    • Synopsis of the proposed restricted experiment and the intended objective(s).
    • Description of the nucleic acid insert (complete sequence information is not required) and the predicted biological characteristics of the recombinant or synthetic product.
    • Description of the cloning/expression vector.
    • Identification and characteristics of the host organism used for molecular cloning.
    • Description of the methods used for selection (e.g. recombinant or passive selection) to include all potential drug resistant traits (including intermediate variants).
    • Address whether there are alternative drug resistance marker genes that could be used (i.e., to avoid the acquisition of drug resistance that could compromise the use of the drug to control disease agents in humans, veterinary medicine, or agriculture). Provide an explanation as to why these alternative marker genes are not being considered.
    • Description of biosafety level including facility containment, equipment and special practices to be utilized for the proposed restricted experiment(s).
    • Description of the mechanism and specificity of the drug resistance (antibiotic and antiviral resistance) being conferred to include any cross-resistance to other therapeutically useful antimicrobials.
    • Estimated amount of toxin (recombinant or synthetic) to be produced.
    • Synopsis of any planned animal or plant experiments or other relevant animal or plant work.
    • Scientific references or supporting documentation, particularly with respect to the biosafety aspects of the proposed experimental product.

  3. Does the introduction of antimicrobial resistance into a select agent, to be used as a marker for cloning, meet the definition of a restricted experiment?

    It depends on the circumstance. Although not all antibiotic resistance markers confer resistance to drugs used to control or prevent diseases associated with select agents and toxins, we highly recommend that all experiments involving the introduction of antimicrobial resistance into a select agent be reviewed by FSAP to determine if the proposed experiment meets the definition of a restricted experiment. If the introduction of such a marker compromises the control of disease agents (e.g., in the event of an accidental exposure), it may meet the definition of a restricted experiment requiring prior approval. All restricted experiment requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

  4. Should intermediate selection markers not retained in the final construct be included in the request to perform a potential restricted experiment?

    Yes. The request must describe all methods used for selection, including all intermediate vectors containing drug resistant markers or potential drug resistant traits. Refer to the Restricted Experiment Guidance Document for more information regarding submission of restricted experiment requests to the Federal Select Agent Program.

  5. I would like to possess a product resulting from an approved restricted experiment. Am I required to submit a request to the Federal Select Agent Program in order to possess the product?

    It depends on the circumstance. If the product of a restricted experiment is itself a select agent or toxin, the same approval to possess, use, and transfer the restricted experiment product is required under section 7 of the select agent regulations as for any other select agent or toxin. As to whether the product requires specific approval under section 13 of the regulations, it depends on when the product of the restricted experiment was created. If the product was created prior to December 4, 2012, the product of a restricted experiment does not require special approval for possession under section 13 of the select agent regulations. If the product was created on or after December 4, 2012, the possession is regulated under section 13 of the select agent regulations. For those regulated restricted experiment products, the entity must submit a written request to the Federal Select Agent Program asking permission to possess the product. If the possession of the product from a restricted experiment is approved, the entity must update the relevant information as an amendment to their select agent registration. In addition, the subsequent Principal Investigator (PI)'s work objective should be submitted for review, and the entity could expect that any approval would be subject to the same restrictions and biosafety requirements as were imposed by the initial "restricted experiment" approval. Please refer to the Restricted Experiment Guidance Document for more information regarding the regulation status of the possession of products from restricted experiments.

  6. I would like to conduct a restricted experiment using passive selection (e.g., transfer of drug resistant traits through gradient or step-wise selective pressure) as a method to select for drug resistance traits in select agents. Am I required to submit a request to the Federal Select Agent Program to conduct this experiment?

    Yes. The entity must submit a written request to FSAP asking permission to conduct the experiment. If the request to perform the experiment is approved, the entity must update the relevant information as an amendment to their select agent registration. Only passive selection experiments conducted on or after December 4, 2012 are regulated under Section 13 of the select agent regulations. Please refer to the Restricted Experiment Guidance Document for more information regarding the regulation status to conduct restricted experiments using passive selection or utilizing recombinant DNA.

  7. May an entity transfer the product of a restricted experiment to another PI?

    Depending on when the product was generated, the possession of a product of a restricted experiment may require pre-approval from FSAP before a transfer request is approved. Please refer to the Restricted Experiment Guidance document for a list of documentation required for review.

    In addition, the APHIS/CDC Form 2, Request to Transfer Select Agents and Toxins, must be completed and submitted to FSAP prior to transferring any select agent(s) or any toxin(s) over the exclusion amount as indicated in section 3(d)(7). In Block 26, "characterization of agent" field, describe all drug resistance traits or recombinant DNA containing genes for the biosynthesis of select toxins, for each strain listed. Please refer to the instructions and guidance documents for Form 2. If approved, note that an amendment to the recipient entity's registration for the receiving PI's work objective must be submitted to FSAP.

  8. I received approval from the Federal Select Agent Program to conduct a restricted experiment; however, I would like to modify the experiment. Should I submit a new request to the Federal Select Agent Program?

    Yes. Restricted experiment decisions are determined by the specific work objectives and protocols submitted. If there are any changes in the work objectives or protocols, you should notify FSAP and amend your select agent registration in accordance with section 7(h) of the select agent regulations.

  9. How long does it take for the Federal Select Agent Program to make a final determination regarding a restricted experiment?

    FSAP thoroughly reviews all requests to conduct a restricted experiment. Some decisions can be determined quickly based on identical experiments that were previously reviewed by the program. Some requests may require additional information from the entity before the review can proceed. On average, it takes 5-8 weeks for FSAP to review the request and notify the entity of the decision. Therefore, the length of time varies considerably based upon the type of request proposed. You may contact your file manager to follow up on the status of your request.

  10. An entity submits a request to: 1) Perform an experiment that involves the deliberate formation of synthetic or recombinant DNA containing genes for the biosynthesis of a select toxin lethal for vertebrates at an LD[50] < 100 ng/kg body weight; and 2) Introduce synthetic or recombinant nucleic acids that encode for the functional form of a select toxin into an E. coli strain. The propagation of the strain will not produce toxin that exceeds the regulated amount. Do the experiments meet the definition of a restricted experiment?

    Experiment 1:
    Yes, the experiment involves the deliberate formation of synthetic or recombinant DNA containing genes for the biosynthesis of a select toxin if the select toxin is lethal for vertebrates at an LD[50]<100ng/kg body weight. A formal request to perform this work should be submitted to the Federal Select Agent Program.

    Experiment 2:
    No, this is not considered a restricted experiment, but the construct (product of the experiment) is subject to the select agent regulations. Although wild-type E.coli strains alone are not considered select agents and the expected yield of toxin is less than the regulated amount, since the recombinant E. coli strain contains the nucleic acids that encode for and express a functional form of the toxin, the recombinant strain is now considered a select agent and subject to select agent regulations. This work must be included in the registration application.

  11. Section 13 of the select agent regulations states “…Experiments involving the deliberate formation of synthetic or recombinant DNA containing genes for the biosynthesis of select toxins lethal for vertebrates at an LD[50] < 100 ng/kg body weight…” Which of the select toxins meet this definition?

    Botulinum neurotoxin is the only select toxin that meets this definition.