News

Halting the spread of Ebola: Nigeria a model for quick action, scientists find

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Rapid control measures critical to stopping the virus in its tracks
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Designing tomorrow's air traffic control systems

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

MIT researcher explores algorithmic solutions to make flying more efficient
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Ten things to know about the flowers of fall: Sunflowers

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Scientists unfurl common flowers' genetic secrets
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What happens to your brain when your mind is at rest?

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Kavli Prize winner recognized as pioneer in research in the development and use of brain imaging techniques
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Geospatial data project puts major issues on the map

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Powerful Web-based system let users worldwide predict damaging floods and potential effects of climate change
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Sleeping sands of the Kalahari awaken after more than 10,000 years

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Overgrazing leaves desert's red dunes blowing in the African wind
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Making stars

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Astronomy program provides tools, support to enhance diversity
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Brown Dog: A search engine for the other 99 percent (of data)

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Illinois-led team develops tools to search the unstructured Web
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Advances in computer mobility, connectivity and networks

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Researcher develops programs and platforms that will ensure systems work despite power losses and other issues
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Expensive cup o'joe? Blame coffee farm rust fungus

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

To find answers, scientists study ecological complexity of Mexican, Central American coffee plantations
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How to grow mussels

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Researchers optimize growing conditions and practices to improve mussel farming
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Community college project gets students on the STEM path

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Undergraduates get involved in research activities as part of teaching mission
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Building the framework for the future of biofuels

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Do plant-based fuels offer a realistic reprieve from a fossil-powered future? An ASU engineer examines the full cycle
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Plant-based building materials may boost energy savings

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Insulation for homes of the future may be harvested from fields of kenaf, an alternative to fiberglass
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Engineering a better food bank

NSF Discoveries - 55 min 8 sec ago

Key nodes in a vast national food distribution system, food banks manage complex logistics that help connect families to farms
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Puggle

Ernst Mayr Library Facebook - Sun, 2014-10-19 07:33
Puggle


Timeline Photos
PUGGLE Orphan Echidna Puggle: Beau was brought to the Taronga Zoo as a 30 day orphan in late October. This weird looking baby is called a puggle. Together with the platypus, the Echidna (or spiny anteater: adults are full of spines) are the only extant mammals that lay eggs. They live in Australia and New Guinea.
Categories: News

White House suspends enhanced pathogen research

Nature Newsblog - Fri, 2014-10-17 18:52

Past research has made the H5N1 virus transmissible in ferrets.

Sara Reardon

As the US public frets about the recent transmission of Ebola to two Texas healthcare workers, the US government has turned an eye on dangerous viruses that could become far more widespread if they escaped from the lab. On 17 October, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced a mandatory moratorium on research aimed at making pathogens more deadly, known as gain-of-function research.

Under the moratorium, government agencies will not fund research that attempts to make natural pathogens more transmissible through the air or more deadly in the body. Researchers who have already been funded to do such projects are asked to voluntarily pause work while two non-regulatory bodies, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) and the National Research Council, assess its risks. The ban specifically mentions research that would enhance influenza, SARS and MERS. Other types of research on naturally occurring strains of these viruses would still be funded.

This is the second time that gain-of-function research has been suspended. In 2012, 39 scientists working on influenza agreed to a voluntary moratorium after the publication of two papers demonstrating that an enhanced H5N1 influenza virus could be transmitted between mammals through respiratory droplets. The publications drew a storm of controversy centered around the danger that they might give terrorists the ability to create highly effective bioweapons, or that the viruses might accidentally escape the lab. Research resumed after regulatory agencies and entities such as the World Health Organization laid out guidelines for ensuring the safety and security of flu research.

The OSTP’s moratorium, by contrast, is mandatory and affects a far broader array of viruses. “I think it’s really excellent news,” says Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has long called for more oversight of risky research. “I think it’s common sense to deliberate before you act.”

Virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin Madison, who conducted one of the controversial H5N1 gain-of-function studies in an effort to determine how the flu virus could evolve to become more deadly in mammals, says he plans to “comply with the government’s directives” on those experiments that are considered gain-of-function under OSTP’s order. “I hope that the issues can be discussed openly and constructively so that important research will not be delayed indefinitely,” he says.

The NSABB, which has not met since 2012, was called back into action in July, apparently in response to a set of lab accidents at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which lab workers were exposed to anthrax and inadvertently shipped H5N1 virus without proper safety precautions. The NSABB will spend most of its next meeting on 22 October discussing gain-of-function research, and the NRC plans to hold a workshop on a date that has not yet been set. Lipsitch, who will speak at the NSABB meeting, says he plans to advocate the use of an objective risk-assessment tool to weigh the potential benefits of each research project against the probability of a lab accident and the pathogen’s contagiousness; and consider whether the knowledge gained by studying a risky pathogen could be gained in a safer way.

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