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Policy

NIH allows gain-of-function research on pathogens

by Andrea Widener
January 8, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 2

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has resumed funding research on how pathogens that cause diseases like influenza and SARS become more deadly, the agency announced last month. Funding was halted three years ago under the Obama administration after a series of safety failures at biosecurity labs raised concern that the research could fall into the wrong hands. With the renewed funding comes a more stringent review process that will weigh the risks and benefits of any research on potentially pandemic pathogens. “I am confident that the thoughtful review process laid out [in the plan] will help to facilitate the safe, secure, and responsible conduct of this type of research in a manner that maximizes the benefits to public health,” NIH Director Francis Collins says. The new review process will apply to research on any pathogen that is highly transmissible and likely to cause significant illness or death in humans.

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