Newswise — Statements below have been provided by Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. Dr. Stanley serves as Chair of the NSABB but is voicing his own opinions and not speaking for the committee as a whole or any agency of the Federal Government of the United States of America.
- The new HHS Framework incorporates the recommendations of NSABB and the OSTP. The critical component here is the lifting of the moratorium and the recognition that the default for GOF with PPP is not “no” but entry into a rigorous evaluation process that incorporates PI, institutional, and agency input with some carefully thought out guidelines.
- While the PPPs do pose a risk for GOF experiments, hence the need for this framework, they also pose the greatest risk for naturally occurring and devastating pandemics such as the 1918 outbreak of influenza. Evolution guarantees that naturally pathogenically “enhanced” isolates of influenza and other pathogens will emerge and we need basic research to help us better recognize and countermand these strains.
- There has been increased scrutiny of laboratories working in this area, which can lead to an even more robust culture of safety. But I also fear that the moratorium may have delayed vital research and reduced interest from PIs and students in engaging in research on these pathogens. That could have long lasting effects on the field.
- I believe nature is the ultimate bioterrorist and we need to do all we can to stay one step ahead. In this increasingly connected and crowded world there are fewer and fewer effective boundaries to the spread of pathogens (witness Zika) and basic research on these agents by laboratories that have shown they can do this work safely is key to global security.