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International experts create framework for safer pathogen research

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The report was presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

A new report released by the Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsIndependent Task Force on Research with Pandemic Risks that studied the benefits and risks of a subset of research that could plausibly source a large outbreak, or even a pandemic. Formed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force is composed of experts with backgrounds in biosafety, biosecurity, epidemiology, ethics, governance, virology and other areas who endorse the report.   

The SFA Foundation, through the CEO Tom Kariuki, PhD, was part of the task force that produced the report. 

Prof Kariuki said: "Studying pandemics like COVID-19 is not just an academic pursuit; it is a crucial investment in our collective resilience hence the participation of the SFA Foundation in this important work. Through the lessons learned from such challenges, we gain the knowledge needed to build a healthier, more prepared world, fostering a future where science, solidarity, and swift action unite to safeguard global well-being." 

The findings and recommendations of the new report, titled “A Framework For Tomorrow’s Pathogen Research,” was presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. 

Key recommendations include: 

  • Research with high-risk pathogens should have high-probability benefits for public health.  

  • Where feasible, research questions about pathogens with pandemic risk should be addressed using surrogate systems, or by taking advantage of loss-of-function experiments on current human viruses. 

  • International protocols should be established for high-risk research on pathogens. Those protocols should include methods for both sample collection and laboratory work. 

  • High-risk pathogen research should be monitored locally, nationally and internationally. Funds should be allocated to optimize biorisk management strategies.   

  • Scientific journals and their editors should enforce timely data-sharing and research integrity for the manuscripts they publish. 

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