Friday, October 24, 2014

gain of function...,


NYTimes |  Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents, the White House announced Friday that it would temporarily halt all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.

It also encouraged scientists involved in such research on the influenza, SARS and MERS viruses to voluntarily pause their work while its risks were reassessed.

Opponents of this type of research, called gain of function — for example, attempts to create a more contagious version of the lethal H5N1 avian influenza to learn which mutations made it that way — were elated.

“Brilliant!” said Peter Hale, the executive director of the Foundation for Vaccine Research, which opposes such experiments. “The government has finally seen the light. This is what we have all been waiting for and campaigning for. I shall sleep better tonight.”

The announcement, which was made by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services, did not say how long the moratorium would last. It said a “deliberative process to assess the potential risks and benefits” would begin this month and stretch at least into next year.

The move appeared to be a sudden change of heart by the Obama administration, which last month issued regulations calling for more stringent federal oversight of such research and requiring scientists and universities to disclose that their work might be risky, rather than expecting federal agencies to notice.