Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CIDRAP On The GOF Research Pause Debate

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Credit CDC PHIL

 

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One of the topics we’ve revisited frequently over the past several years has centered around  the wisdom and safety of creating new and/or enhanced viruses in the laboratory.  Areas of research commonly called either  `Gain of Function’ (GOF) or DURC (Dual Use Research of Concern). 

 

Some earlier blogs on this topic include:

 

mBio: The Risks & Benefits Of `GOF’ Experimentation On Pathogens With Pandemic Potential

The Laboratory Bio-Safety Backlash Continues

ECDC Comment On Gain Of Function Research

Lipsitch & Galvani: GOF Research Concerns

 

While scientists engaged in this type of work insist that the risks are negligible (see Scientists For Science: GOF Research `Essential’ & Can be Done `Safely’), many others (see Updating The Cambridge Working Group) are not convinced.

 

After several years of public and internal debate, two months ago the Obama administration ordered a temporary moratorium on Federally funded GOF research involving influenza, MERS, and SARS while new rules and regulations could be devised. 

 

This policy change came after a summer which saw repeated high-profile stories of lab accidents and violations of biosafety protocols (see The Journal Nature Weighs In On Lab Accidents & Biosafety).

 

Last night Jim Wappes, Editorial Director of  CIDRAP, wrote a long piece looking at both sides of this complicated and growing debate. Follow the link below to read:

 

Experts debate research pause, gain-of-function issues

Dual-Use Research

Jim Wappes | Editorial Director | CIDRAP News

Dec 15, 2014

 In anticipation of today's debate at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, DC, on "gain-of-function" (GOF) research, two recent editorials and three other opinion pieces in mBio discussed the US government's decision earlier this fall to pause controversial GOF research that might elevate the risks of a pandemic as a result of a bioterror attack or accidental pathogen release.

"GOF" typically refers to experiments that involve enhancing the pathogenicity, transmissibility, or host range of a pathogen, with the aim of better understanding disease pathways and developing vaccines and drugs.

One editorial, by Marc Lipsitch, PhD, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Thomas V. Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, supports the research pause and offers approaches for assessing risk. The second editorial, by mBio editor Michael J. Imperiale, PhD, and mBio founding editor-in-chief Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD, questions the value of the GOF pause and asks for clarification of key elements in the policy.

The Obama administration announced the moratorium on Oct 17 to assess the risks and benefits of federally funded GOF research involving influenza, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) viruses and to develop federal policies. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) is playing a lead role in the review, which is expected to last almost a year. On Nov 25 the NSABB expressed concerns over the pause.

(Continue . . . )

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