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Breakfast Briefing: Gain of Function - Experimental Applications Relating to Potentially Pandemic Pathogens

30 October 2015

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The Royal Irish Academy, as a member of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), hosted a breakfast briefing on the latest EASAC Report on ‘Gain of Function: Experimental Applications Relating to Potentially Pandemic Pathogens’ on Thursday 29th October.

This report was produced by a working group of 17 expert scientists nominated by EASAC member academies across 10 European countries.  In the specific context considered by this report ‘gain of function (GoF)’ refers to the experimental modification of the influenza virus, particularly the H5N1 variant, to alter its transmission potential with the aim of better understanding the factors that determine its pandemic potential to spread from animals to human, and between humans through an aersol route.

This report is particularly timely, as it considers current controversies about the possible impact of GoF research with regard to biosafety (i.e. the safety of researchers conducting this research and the general public) and biosecurity (i.e. the potential for use as a biological weapon). This report emphasises a layered approach to biosafety with integration of responsibilities and action at researcher, research institution, research funder, national EU, and global levels. The report also concludes that there is no need for a new advisory body at EU level, or the establishment of a moratorium on GoF research, as is currently in force in the US.

The briefing was delivered by Professor Bert Rima, MRIA (Queen’s University Belfast), who was the Academy’s nominee to the EASAC working group which drafted the report.

To view Professor Rima’s briefing slides please click here (include link to Powerpoint presentation)

To read the report please click here (include link to attached PDF document)

For more information please contact, John Maguire, Acting Head of Policy and International Relations (j.maguire@ria.ie).

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