DESIGN AND MAKE
December 2017, a scientific journal published a short News Brief that the
University of Wisconsin in Madison was given a grant by the US government to
make a naturally occurring virus into a more deadly form of virus for
This was followed up by an article in January 2018.
During that time, I made a copy and gave it to healthcare workers in Hawaii
where I resided at the time, because I believed that it was morally wrong,
and, thus, healthcare workers needed to be prepared to care for citizens in
advance of the military use of designer viruses for warfare that was
approaching in the horizon.
following is the January 2018 article in the scientific journal,
Nature, that I copied and gave to healthcare workers in Hawaii in 2018
so that they could be prepared for a highly certain occurrence of a
* * *
on pathogen studies lifted
States allows work to make viruses more dangerous.
US government has lifted its controversial ban on funding experiments
that make certain pathogens more deadly or transmissible. On 19
December, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that
scientists can once again use federal money to conduct
‘gain-of-function’ research on pathogens such as influenza
viruses. But the agency also said that researchers’ grant
applications will undergo greater scrutiny than in the past.
goal is to standardize “a rigorous process that we really want to be
sure we’re doing right”, says NIH director Francis Collins.
NIH announcement ends a moratorium on gain-of-function research that
began in October 2014. Back then, some researchers argued that the
agency’s ban — which singled out research on the viruses that
cause flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East
respiratory syndrome (MERS) — was too broad. The 21 projects halted
by the policy included studies of seasonal flu and efforts to develop
vaccines. The NIH eventually allowed ten of these studies to proceed,
but three projects using the MERS virus and eight dealing with flu
remained ineligible for US government grants — until now.
the ban was in effect, the NIH and other government agencies examined
the costs and benefits of allowing such research. In 2016, the
National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity — an independent
panel that advises the NIH’s parent agency, the US Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS) — concluded that very few
government-funded gain-of-function experiments posed a significant
threat to public health.
new policy outlines a framework that the HHS will use to assess
proposed research that would create pathogens with pandemic potential.
Such work might involve modifying a virus to infect more species, or
recreating a pathogen that has been eradicated in the wild, such as
smallpox. There are some exceptions, however: vaccine development and
epidemiological surveillance do not automatically trigger the HHS
plan includes a list of suggested factors for the HHS to consider,
including an assessment of a project’s risks and benefits, and a
determination of whether the investigator and institution are capable
of conducting the work safely. It also says that an experiment should
proceed only if there is no safer alternative method of achieving the
the end of the assessment process, the HHS can recommend that the work
go ahead, ask the researchers to modify their plan or suggest that the
NIH refuse funding. The NIH will also judge the proposal’s
scientific merit before deciding whether to award grant funding.
have long debated the merits of gain-of-function research and the new
decision could reopen that discussion.
Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, whose
work was affected by the moratorium, says the new framework is “an
important accomplishment”. Kawaoka, who studies how molecular
changes in the avian flu virus could make it easier for birds to pass
the infection to humans, now plans to apply for federal funding to
experiment with live versions of the virus.
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of
Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, says that gain-of-function
studies “have done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for
pandemics — yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic”.
argues that such experiments should not happen at all. But if the
government is going to fund them, he says, it is good that there will
be an extra level of review. ■
viruses can be modified in the lab. T
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