The US government may now fund research that looks into engineering a virus to be more deadly and transmittable after lifting a ban they previously placed on themselves.
According to Science Alert, the moratorium, which was imposed three years ago, froze funding for what’s called ‘gain of function’ research: controversial experiments seeking to alter pathogens and make them even more dangerous. Now, the money is back on the table, giving those trials the green light once more.
The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis S. Collins, announced the lifting of the moratorium on Tuesday. Collins said ‘gain of function’ or GOF research with viruses like influenza, MERS, and SARS could help us ‘identify, understand, and develop strategies and effective countermeasures against rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health.’
But not everyone thinks this is a good idea. In fact, most are concerned. It isn’t that this research wasn’t being conducted before, there’s a good chance it was. But once the federal government shows interest in something of this magnitude, it’s time to worry. Some are concerned that the new flow of funding heightens the risk that unseen breeds of deadly engineered pathogens could escape lab containment, which would then make their way to the public, or into the wrong people’s (the government’s) hands.
This post was published at shtfplan on December 20th, 2017.