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Gain-of-function experiments: time for a real debate

Abstract

According to the WHO, dual use research of concern (DURC) is “life sciences research that is intended for benefit, but which might easily be misapplied to do harm”. Recent studies, particularly those on influenza viruses, have led to renewed attention on DURC, as there is an ongoing debate over whether the benefits of gain-of-function (GOF) experiments that result in an increase in the transmission and/or pathogenicity of potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) are outweighed by concerns over biosecurity and biosafety. In this Viewpoint article, proponents and opponents of GOF experiments discuss the benefits and risks associated with these studies, as well as the implications of the current debate for the scientific community and the general public, and suggest how the current discussion should move forward.

W. Paul Duprex.

Ron A. M. Fouchier.

Michael J. Imperiale.

Marc Lipsitch.

David A. Relman.

W.P.D.

R.A.M.F.

M.J.I.

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Correspondence to W. Paul Duprex or Ron A. M. Fouchier or Michael J. Imperiale or Marc Lipsitch or David A. Relman.

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W.P.D., M.J.I. and D.A.R. declare no competing interests. R.A.M.F. receives research support for gain-of-function research from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the European Union. M.L. receives research funding for pneumococcal vaccine modelling projects from PATH Vaccine Solutions and Pfizer.

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Duprex, W., Fouchier, R., Imperiale, M. et al. Gain-of-function experiments: time for a real debate. Nat Rev Microbiol 13, 58–64 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro3405

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