"U.S. Tightens Rules on Risky Virus Research"

"A long-awaited new policy broadens the type of regulated viruses, bacteria, fungi and toxins, including those that could threaten crops and livestock."

"The White House has unveiled tighter rules for research on potentially dangerous microbes and toxins, in an effort to stave off laboratory accidents that could unleash a pandemic.

The new policy, published Monday evening, arrives after years of deliberations by an expert panel and a charged public debate over whether Covid arose from an animal market or a laboratory in China.

A number of researchers worried that the government had been too lax about lab safety in the past, with some even calling for the creation of an independent agency to make decisions about risky experiments that could allow viruses, bacteria or fungi to spread quickly between people or become more deadly. But others warned against creating restrictive rules that would stifle valuable research without making people safer.

The debate grew sharper during the pandemic, as politicians raised questions about the origin of Covid. Those who suggested it came from a lab raised concerns about studies that tweaked pathogens to make them more dangerous — sometimes known as “gain of function” research."

Carl Zimmer and Benjamin Mueller report for the New York Times May 7, 2024.

Source: NYTimes, 05/08/2024