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You know that movie trope of the mad scientist creating some super disease in his lab only to have it leak out into the public causing mass panic and destruction. Well, that might not be just a trope anymore. As of today, the United States ended its ban on engineering deadly viruses in the lab. The most important question traveling through the internet is, is this a good idea? The second question is, how long before scientists create a zombie-creating superbug.
The PPP Begins
About three years ago, scientists in the United States were able to take already infectious diseases and make them even more deadly, all for "research" purposes. However, someone wised up in Washington D.C and decided to shut down these type of experiments. They were known as the "gain of function research": controversial experiments seeking to alter pathogens and make them even more dangerous has officially had its moratorium lifted today.
Director of the National Institutes of Health or the NIH, just lifted the ban, saying that it could further help us understand and combat major pathogens. Basically, it would give us the opportunity to develop strategies and effective countermeasures against "rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health" says director Francis S. Collins. "There are biosafety and biosecurity risks associated with undertaking such research that must be adequately considered and appropriately mitigated in order to help safely realize the potential benefits", states the NIH. To calm the obvious concerns, the NIH promised to lower the risk of any potential catastrophic events. "The NIH new framework will introduce enhanced forms of potential pandemic pathogens. Research involving potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) is essential to protecting global health and security", says the NIH.
For the NIH to get funding for the creation of any superviruses, the researchers part of the PPP project need to demonstrate to the U.S. government that they can conduct their research safely and in secure facilities.
Of course many in the science community are not excited about the news. Biologist Richard Ebright from Rutgers University was one of the first to voice his opinion stating, "I am not persuaded that the work is of greater potential benefit than potential harm. "
The issue with even the most perfect procedures and policies is that they still can not predict the potential issues with human error. One wrong slip or contamination and there could be the next plague. If you didn't know the reason why the moratorium even existed in the first place, there was the accidental exposure of workers to a benign sample of a super potent avian flu, a couple years ago. Still, if it was something worse, it could have been destructive. What do you think of the lifting of the moratorium?