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Moratorium on risky virology studies leaves work at 14 institutions in limbo

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  • Moratorium on risky virology studies leaves work at 14 institutions in limbo

    Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2...itutions-limbo


    Moratorium on risky virology studies leaves work at 14 institutions in limbo
    By
    Jocelyn Kaiser
    17 November 2014 3:30 pm

    Like many influenza virologists, John Steel of Emory University in Atlanta often uses a feeble lab strain of influenza in his studies of how seasonal flu spreads. “It’s a nasty virus if you’re a mouse” but doesn’t sicken humans, Steel says of this 80-year-old lab strain, known as PR8. But last month, under orders from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Steel told his two staff members working with PR8 to put their experiments on hold and find other things to do while NIH decides whether the work falls under a temporary ban on risky virus experiments.

    “Our feeling is that the likelihood [of harm from studies with the PR8 strain] is exceedingly slim,” says Walter Orenstein, who oversees Emory’s NIH-funded influenza research center. “But it’s something for the NIH to decide.”

    Last month in an unusual step, the U.S. government announced a “pause” in federal funding for virology studies that involve tweaking influenza, MERS, and SARS viruses in ways that could make them more transmissible or pathogenic in mammals. The government encouraged everyone conducting such gain-of-function (GOF) projects to voluntarily pause while experts spend a year hashing out the risks and benefits of the studies and developing a policy for when to allow them...
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