‘Gain-of-function’ research guidelines unclear after board vote fails
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on gain of function research.
It sparked concern over the safety and transparency at Chinese laboratories that investigate bat coronaviruses.
It turns out — setting regulations for the research is trickier the previously thought.
First off — what is gain of function research?
Well when it comes to viruses like COVID — it usually involves modifying a virus to study how it might mutate in the future.
This *can* include making the virus more transmissible.
While more attention has been brought to gain of function since COVID — the controversy actually goes back over a decade — when a pair of publications described researchers engineering influenza viruses to become more transmissible in order to understand how they might evolve in the wild.
A three-year moratorium was placed on such gain of function research projects back in 20-14.
Since then — the U-S National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has been working on recommendations for regulating gain of function research.
A vote on them was set to happen during a meeting last week.
However — so many concerns were lodged at the meeting — it ended with only an agreement to modify the report.
Once the report is finalized — the board will send it to the Department of Health and Human Services for consideration.
It is unclear when that will happen.