|In 2014, the Obama administration put a moratorium on funding for “gain-of-function” research. The ban was prompted by several troubling near misses involving anthrax, small pox, and vials of the “bird flu” virus, H5N1. At the end of that year, a group of scientists met in Germany to discuss the decision and its impact on their field. |
The archived presentations are quite revealing about the mood within the field of life sciences. Though speakers concede it is difficult to quantify the danger gain-of-function research poses, they nevertheless discuss ways to convince governments and the public to let them continue. The impression we got is that leading voices in these disciplines resented the blockade to their work and intended to go ahead anyway. Harvey Fineburg, who has held many influential positions over the decades, said in his address that scientists need to convince lawmakers of the risks of not doing gain-of-function experiments.
While this symposium was not connected (as far as we can see, but what do we know?) to the appearance of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, it is a window into the hubristic attitude amongst scientific elites who feel they should be able to perform risky experiments, regardless of the ethical obligations and the threat to the public. We pray the truth will one day be known.
Speaking of hubris… UnHerd has documented the strange disappearance of well-funded organizations that were collecting, storing, and tinkering with pathogens from animals in the wild. The stated reason for such work was to make predictions about future pandemics, but one scientist who opposed the research said they were making promises about disease prevention they could not keep.
It helps to check in on what our government is up to from time to time… The Federalist podcast hosted Justin Goodman of White Coat Waste Project and the illuminating conversation is another of those which raises many questions about the accountability of the few who make decisions that affect so many of us. Starting his career by advocating for animal welfare, Goodman soon unearthed massive government spending on cruel and unnecessary animal experiments.
The Project had broadly bipartisan support until they produced evidence linking gain-of-function research in Wuhan with US funded bodies such as the National Institutes of Health, under the direction of Dr. Fauci. Goodman says he has found that people across the political spectrum are supportive of his single-minded focus on keeping government accountable for its spending – with $20BN of taxpayer money being spent on this wasteful experimentation, there’s “something for everyone to get upset about”.