During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of highly speculative theories have spread about the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and links to gain-of-function research.     In January 2021, virologist Angela Rasmussen of the University of Saskatchewan wrote that one version of the information built on previous work on gain of function on coronaviruses to spread the idea that the virus originated in the lab. Rasmussen explained that this is unlikely due to the scrutiny and government scrutiny the GoFR is subjected to, and it is unlikely that research into hard-to-obtain coronaviruses can take place under the radar.  Researchers and biosafety experts are calling on the U.S. government to publish clearer guidelines for experiments, which it could fund and make pathogens more transmissible or deadly. They made the calls on 27 September. It took place during the first of a series of public hearing sessions hosted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The sessions are part of a months-long review of U.S. policy on risky pathogen research by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). Much of the discussion revolves around research on function gain. So The Conversation asked David Gillum and Rebecca Moritz, who work closely with virologists on a daily basis to ensure research safety, and science and technology policy experts Sam Weiss Evans and Megan Palmer to explain what the term means and why this type of research is important.
But the group`s research on bat coronaviruses has focused on the threat bat viruses pose to humans. Kessler acknowledged that although the original bat coronavirus did not spread among humans in the experiment, the research aimed to estimate how bat coronaviruses might evolve to infect humans. On March 10-11, 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held their second public symposium to discuss potential U.S. government guidelines for oversight of gain-of-function research (GOF). The symposium was held at the request of the U.S. Government to provide a mechanism to engage the life sciences community and the general public and gather feedback on best practices to ensure effective federal oversight of OFM research as part of a broader U.S. government consultative process.  Researchers who study viruses in laboratories sometimes intentionally make them more dangerous to prepare better responses to epidemics that may occur naturally. In 2017, the federal government began requiring that all National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant applications that include gain-of-function research be reviewed by an expert panel to assess the risk of such work versus the potential gains. But the names of the members of the expert group are not publicly available, nor is the review of study proposals. The NSABB served as the official federal advisory body on the FRG issue and was tasked with making recommendations to the U.S. government on a conceptual approach to evaluating proposed OFM research.
The NSABB finalized its recommendations on 24 May 2016. The U.S. government has taken NSABB`s findings and recommendations into account when developing a research policy on gain. In January 2017, the U.S. government issued policy guidance for reviewing and monitoring research that is expected to create, transfer, or use enhanced PPPs. Functional gain can occur in an organism either in nature or in the laboratory. Some laboratory examples include creating plants that are more resistant to salt and drought or modifying disease vectors to produce mosquitoes resistant to dengue transmission. Function amplification can also be useful for environmental reasons, such as changing E. coli. coli so that it can turn plastic waste into a valuable product. Scientists unanimously told The Intercept that the experiment, in which genetically modified mice were infected with “chimeric” hybrid viruses, could not have directly triggered the pandemic.
None of the viruses listed in the experiment reports are closely enough related to the virus that causes Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, to have evolved there. Still, several scientists said the new information released by the NIH after being sued by The Intercept raises biosecurity concerns, pointing to a general lack of oversight of pathogen research and raising questions about other information that has not been publicly disclosed. The group engaged in public relations and influenced the U.S. government`s decision in December 2014 to suspend funding for research that would create certain types of potential new pandemic pathogens.  Increasing the danger of pathogens can help researchers prepare for pandemics. Credit: Anna Schroll/Fotogloria/UIG via Getty Experts now say the documents support the claim that the NIH funded the job gain, but not in the specific case Paul claimed it. “There`s no doubt,” said Columbia University`s Racaniello, who pointed to the reduced weight of mice infected with the chimeric viruses described in research abstracts sent to the NIH. “Weight loss is a functional gain. Tony Fauci is wrong when he says that`s not the case. Some gain-of-function studies that may improve the pathogenicity or transmissibility of potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) have raised biosafety and biosecurity concerns, including potential dual-use risks associated with misuse of information or products resulting from this research. The White House did not respond to questions about the research. Some are also calling for changes to the HHS ePPP review body itself.
Lipsitch wants the identity of the panel`s advisors to be disclosed and their comments on research grants published (this information is usually kept confidential). Others are concerned that in this case, trustees may refuse participation because of concerns about harassment. Scientists report an increase in harassment during the pandemic, especially those discussing the origins of SARS-CoV-2. A graph from an NIH-funded research report in Wuhan shows the viral load in the lung tissue of humanized mice. Other experts opposed some of the proposals to increase transparency, saying they could be counterproductive. Funding for the controversial experiment came from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, headed by Anthony Fauci. The award to the EcoHealth Alliance, a research organization that studies the spread of viruses from animals to humans, included sub-awards at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and East China Normal University. The principal investigator of the grant is EcoHealth Alliance Chair Peter Daszak, who has been a key voice in the search for the origins of Covid-19. Lipsitch said the published information on the latest experiments reflected the disclosure usually required for government-funded peer-reviewed work. However, he argues that discussions about potential pandemic pathogens require even more extensive disclosure, similar to an environmental impact assessment.