Federal Ban On Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted By Trump Administration

The Trump administration has lifted an Obama-era ban from 2014 on funding research that makes germs more lethal.

Dr. Francis Collins, a Christian researcher who heads of the National Institutes of Health, said the research will happen if a scientific panel says the benefits of the deadly germs justify the risks.

“We see this as a rigorous policy,” Collins told The New York Times. “We want to be sure we’re doing this right.”

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, said of this type of research: “There’s less than meets the eye.”

Ebright added that there should be clearer safety standards and a requirement that the benefits “outweigh” the risks instead of only “justifying” them.

Critics are concerned that a potential monster germ could escape a lab and start a pandemic.

Lab workers at the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were accidentally exposed to anthrax in 2014, and shipped a deadly flu virus to a lab that wanted a benign strain.

Federal funding was ended in October 2014 during efforts to “make three viruses more dangerous: the flu virus, and those causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),” reports The New York Times.

Collins said that any germ could possibly be created, including an Ebola virus transmissible through the air.

Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said: 

If someone finds a way to make the Ebola virus more dangerous, I don’t believe that should be available to anybody off the street who could use it for nefarious purposes.

Physicists long ago learned to distinguish between what can be publicly available and what’s classified. We want to keep some of this stuff on a need-to-know basis.

(Source: The New York Times, Photo Credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development/Flickr)

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