In DepthBiosecurity

U.S. halts two dozen risky virus studies

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 404
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6208.404

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Summary

In an unprecedented step, on 17 October federal officials moved to stop studies on three kinds of viruses that alter the pathogens to make them more transmissible or deadly. To buy time for experts to work out a government-wide policy for weighing the risks and benefits of such so-called gain-of-function work, officials are halting all new funding for about two dozen studies and are asking researchers doing ongoing work to agree to a voluntary moratorium. The move took some researchers by surprise because it potentially covers certain studies on any influenza strain—not just two bird strains that are already tightly restricted—as well as two coronaviruses: SARS, which panicked Asia in 2003, and MERS, now spreading from camels to people in the Middle East.