Workshop Report/Summary

Potential Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Research: Summary of a Workshop (2015)

Gain-of-function (GOF) research aims to improve understanding of disease pathways by modifying the ability of an infectious agent to cause disease. The potential benefits of such modifications are to help find targets for vaccines and drugs as well as provide information that can help in surveillance for potentially pandemic strains. But concerns about biosafety and biosecurity risks are also part of current debates over GOF research on the potentially pandemic viruses that cause influenza, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. A December 2014 symposium, organized by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, examined these potential risks and benefits.

The symposium was part of a deliberative process undertaken by the U.S. government to promote and enhance the Nation's biosafety and biosecurity. It brought together experts with a wide range of perspectives, including public health, biosafety, public health surveillance, virological research, security, and drug and vaccine development. Participants examined scientific and technical questions underlying recent concerns and discussed principles for assessing potential risks and benefits. This report has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of the key issues and ideas identified during the symposium.

The archived webcast of the symposium is available here.

The slide decks from each of the presenters are also online. View them here.

The committee roster and bios are available here.