Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine United States Science

A Federal Ban On Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted (nytimes.com) 156

schwit1 shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal officials on Tuesday ended a moratorium imposed three years ago on funding research that alters germs to make them more lethal. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine.

Critics say these researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic. Now, a government panel will require that researchers show that their studies in this area are scientifically sound and that they will be done in a high-security lab. The pathogen to be modified must pose a serious health threat, and the work must produce knowledge -- such as a vaccine -- that would benefit humans. Finally, there must be no safer way to do the research. "We see this as a rigorous policy," Dr. Collins said. "We want to be sure we're doing this right."
"Now where are those twelve monkeys?" adds schwit1.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Federal Ban On Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted

Comments Filter:
  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @11:37PM (#55780939)

    So long as Will Smith survives, we'll be fine.

    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )
      In the book which the movie is (very loosely) based on, the bad guys become sentient, kill the protagonist, and inherit the world.
      • Which is, in my opinion, the much better way to end the story. It's far more poignant for the protagonist to learn that he's actually the antagonist in the viewpoints of everyone else. The way they ended the movie was like ending Lovecraft's "The Outsider" with the narrator figuring out how to banish a ghoul that's been following him.

        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          Which is, in my opinion, the much better way to end the story. It's far more poignant for the protagonist to learn that he's actually the antagonist in the viewpoints of everyone else. The way they ended the movie was like ending Lovecraft's "The Outsider" with the narrator figuring out how to banish a ghoul that's been following him.

          You can blame the studio for that. In the original ending that was shot (available as an extra on the dvd), Neville realizes that the Alpha male who has been attacking him was just trying to get to the female he'd been experimenting on for a cure, and that the Darksiders just wanted her back. He ends up returning to the female to the group and apologizes to them, since although they were no longer human, they had retained some of their humanity and their emotions. The Alpha orders the rest to leave, and Nev

    • You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. Just as with nuclear technology, if we recuse from using CRISPR, all that means is that if and when bad guys use it, we will be unable to defend ourselves with it.

  • Stephen King (Score:5, Interesting)

    by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @11:37PM (#55780941)
    The Stand, Act One
    • by qzzpjs ( 1224510 )

      Just watched that again over the summer. Scary beginning, 99% pointless middle, ends with the evil city destroyed by bad guy Trashcan Man. He's the only character in 8 hours that actually did something to stop Flagg. Still, that first act should be something to pay attention to.

  • by maglor_83 ( 856254 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2017 @11:49PM (#55780971)

    Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine.

    • ... if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks.
      Sounds like code for pharmas need new blockbuster drugs...
      • Sounds like an improvement on those LUDDITES AND FOOLS at the University Ethics Board telling me I can't do simple experiment to make velociraptors. They kicked me out of my laboratory and now I have to do my experiments in primitive conditions down in the sewer.

      • ... if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks.

        Sounds like code for pharmas need new blockbuster drugs...

        To cure that new disease that is suddenly spreading like wildfire?

        You're a marketing GENIUS!

        Although... cure? Maybe just "control". Ensures a more constant income than a one-time cure.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine.

      MAGA = Make America Genocidal Again?

  • Charles Montgomery Burns biological warfare lab is going to reopen with nuclear power

  • You Want Zombies? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Templer421 ( 4988421 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @12:05AM (#55781021)

    Because This is How You Get ZOMBIES!

    • Not to worry, viruses NEVER mutate on their own, and containment and procedures will be foolproof and complete, as it will get as much (or more) funding as the research itself.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Actually it's how you get killer mutant bird flu. Which is worse. You can't stop flu by shooting it in the head.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who else thinks this lab should be located somewhere isolated like Antartica, Assencion Island or middle of a very desolate desert ?

    Someplace where the risk of "12 monkeys" exposure disasters are minimized.

    I really don't like the lab located in an area with an active civilian population and scientists that go home every night.

    We get enough exposure to the new flu strains from having school age children in the family, without a better engineered killer version possible.

    Germ & chemical warfare is morally

    • by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @08:56AM (#55782287)
      Well, last time we were doing bioweapons research and testing we did it fifteen miles from the Capitol, so I'm sure this will likewise performed somewhere safe.
      • I don't know, bio weapon research and testing near the capitol would insure that the politicians have a vested interest in making sure that the research lab is well funded, safe, and being run by responsible parties. Politicians behave quite responsibly when they have skin in the game.
    • Right, the thing to do is to route bioweapons researchers through airports every couple of weeks when they rotate home..

  • > ... only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks.

    Why does that not make me feel even slightly safe?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why does that not make me feel even slightly safe?

      Because you were brought up by an ignorant and largely anti science society and media and were taught this from a young age. It's not your fault.

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

        Why does that not make me feel even slightly safe?

        Because you were brought up by an ignorant and largely anti science society and media and were taught this from a young age. It's not your fault.

        It is his fault, wilful ignorance is always your own damn fault.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        Just because they're scientists doesn't make them any less corruptible or fallible.

  • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @12:40AM (#55781097) Homepage Journal

    The rest of the world didn't care about the ban, and neither would domestic terrorists, so it's not really like we're any less safe than before. This should, in theory, allow us to find the "low-hanging fruit" as far as lethal modifications is concerned. Since that's very likely where malicious actors would look, we should be looking too. Only then can we plan a defense against them.

    • But most of the rest of the world doesn't have nearly as much of the means to create some new world-ending virus.
      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        Enough of the world has the capability that we need to be on top of it. Let's posit, just for the sake of argument, that only China and Russia have this ability -- that's still several times the population of the U.S. that can be tapped for researchers. That's not "most of the rest of the world", but it is over a billion people and thus my argument still holds.

        The USSR, and now Russia, has had a biological weapons program [wikipedia.org] for almost a century. Like their nuclear power, they have massively fucked up and atte [wikipedia.org]

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Don't care? I don't know about that. If they don't care it's probably ignorance.

      If you travel around the world, and you read the local newspapers (presuming you can read the language), what you discover is that the world relies on us for a lot of their science and social science research. Articles discussing air pollution will cite EPA studies of the United States because they simply don't have any data at all for their own country.

      Now for some years I worked with public health agencies as a vendor, incl

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        Not on this particular point. The Soviets had the most aggressive, most successful, and most disastrous biological weapons program on the planet (yes, all three at the same time). This continued in post-soviet Russia, and while publicly available information is over a decade old, it damn well looks like they still haven't stopped.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @12:43AM (#55781107) Journal

    Speaking purely as a biotechnologist with no interest in creating world ending viruses (virii?).

    Will the genetic sequences of these viruses be available on the genome databases hosted by the NIH, the NCBI? (National Center for Biological Information).

    For those of you who don't know, the U.S. Govt. hosts basically all known genomic data for many many species on the NCBI in the form of complete DNA sequences. If you downloaded the sequences for some of these viruses, you could, with the help of a DNA synthesizer (about $10K-$40K), make some of them. Once injected into a suitable host, they would self-assemble into virulent particles capable of transmittal.

    From what I understand, some of the newer DNA synthesizers "phone home" to tell the appropriate government agencies what you're up to. Also, perhaps there is some mechanism at the NCBI to prevent/monitor you when you attempt to download these sequences.

    Of course, the problem with biological weapons is that they are notoriously hard to control, in fact the first victim(s) may very well be their creator. However for those with apocalyptic visions of paradise after death (70 virgins), that may not be a deterrent.

    • .... in fact the first victim(s) may very well be their creator... that may not be a deterrent.
      Sounds like a lot of jobs for summer hires and interns
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Speaking purely as a biotechnologist with no interest in creating world ending viruses (virii?).

      Viruses is the correct plural in English, you got that right.

      Conjugating a word to ii is only for pluralising certain Latin words ending in "ius" and has largely been replaced by standard English conjugation, I.E. the plural of genius is still geniuses.

  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @12:46AM (#55781117)

    We found something else we can blame Trump for now!! Woooohooooo!!

  • Schwit1; the article linked doesn't mention germs, so why did you?

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      The common definition of germ is that it's a superset of viruses. IE, bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa are all separate from each other, but they are all "germs." That doesn't mean of course that bacteria == virus, but it's not limiting the term "germ" to bacteria either.

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @01:38AM (#55781261) Homepage Journal

    I can't be the only one that noticed this "typo":

    Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine.

    Yes, the summary repeated two sentences - how did the editors not catch this before publication? Furthermore, remember how all the smart kids - under the previous administration - "restored science in it's rightful place"? It was those kids, three years ago, that chose to ban scientific research, no matter the benefit! Now the current administration actually lifts the ban and restores scientific research that has a demonstrable benefit, and because their candidate didn't with the last election they have taken a 180 and now oppose scientific research.

    I wonder if they changes their position on Stem Cell Research as well?

    • Probably.They changed their stance on H1B visas.
  • Time to activate Wildfire
  • I bought all this crap several years ago, then they made a law that I couldn't use said crap. Now not only can I make virii to evolve humanity the way I want it to evolve, I get a nice fricken tax break for it! Whooo Hooo, MAGA!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh wait that doesn't fit our narrative.
    Some government group in the executive office that Obama banned from doing scientific research is now doing it again.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @08:56AM (#55782283)

    So far every "High Security" lab that worked for some time had germs escape and infect people and that includes nasties like Marburg. These labs cannot be made as secure as they would need to be for this research. Lets just hope the fools at work on this do not create a bug that kills but has a long incubation time. However, them being fools, my hopes are slim.

  • First you pass a tax law to initiate a massive and hilariously unsustainable wealth transfer to the 1%, then you approve research into potential pandemic-causing bioweapons...it looks bad when you do these things together, see where I'm coming from?

    • Pretty sure that "looking bad" is now the standard that has to be met when americans formulate new policy. It is perhaps the only standard left. Gotta distract people from russia some how. Spam the world and the actual issues get lost in all the noise as people just tune out at a certain point. That's your executive in a nutshell - distract, distract, distract.

      Its an amazingly effective trick that magicians have known for centuries.

  • Put Bioweapons into Health, Education and Welfare
    Put Chemical Weapon research into "insecticide" at Agriculture
    Put VA costs offline entirely
    Make Dept of Energy into Dept. of Nuclear Weapons maintenance.
    Put weapons guidance into NASA
    See? How the War Machine is really paid for

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe

Working...