• Gene EditingZombie Apocalypse? How Gene Editing Could Be Used as a Weapon – and What to Do About It

    By Pin Lean Lau

    There is a scarier scenario that a repeat of the COVID-1 pandemic: What if the threat wasn’t COVID-19, but a gene-edited pathogen designed to turn us into zombies – ghost-like, agitated creatures with little awareness of our surroundings? With recent advances in gene editing, it may be possible for bioterrorists to design viruses capable of altering our behavior, spreading such a disease and ultimately killing us. And chances are we still wouldn’t be sufficiently prepared to deal with it.

  • BiosecurityImproving Safety in Labs Dealing with Lethal Viruses

    Biosafety-Level (BSL) 4 laboratories undertake hazardous research into lethal viruses to improve our understanding of diseases such as Ebola and Lassa Fever and to better prepare the world against new and emerging diseases. But these activities pose significant risks. Surges in the number of labs and an expansion in the high-risk research carried out within them have exacerbated safety and security risks.

  • BiosecurityPromise and Peril: Dual-Use Research in the Life Sciences

    Advances in the life sciences and technology are making important contributions to improving global health. Transformative developments in many fields, however, can also pose risks to global health. It is thus only prudent to assess the potential adverse consequences of choosing particular technological pathways and potentially deleterious applications of technologies.

  • Emerging VirusesNew, $125 Million Project Aims to Detect Emerging Viruses

    A new project, funded with $125 million from USAID, aims to detect and characterize unknown viruses which have the potential to spill over from wildlife and domestic animals to human populations. The 5-year project is expected to yield 8,000 to 12,000 novel viruses, which researchers will then screen and sequence the genomes of the ones that pose the most risk to animal and human health.

  • PathogenCritical Shortcut to Detect, Identify Known and Emerging Pathogens

    Researchers have developed a sophisticated new tool which could help provide early warning of rare and unknown viruses in the environment and identify potentially deadly bacterial pathogens which cause sepsis, among other uses.

  • PathogensThe Risk of Lab-Created, Potentially Pandemic Pathogens

    In 20212, researchers published studies on making avian influenza contagious through the air among mammals. This debate on developing pathogenic threats for research purposes led the U.S. government to impose a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research. The threat of an accidental release of lab-enhanced pathogens remains high.

  • EarthquakesU.S. Most Widely Felt Earthquake: 10 Years On

    Ten years ago, millions of people throughout the eastern U.S. felt shaking from a magnitude 5.8 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia. No lives were lost, and it was not the strongest earthquake to have occurred in the eastern U.S., let alone the western U.S., but the Virginia earthquake was likely felt by more people than any earthquake in North America’s history.

  • COVID-19 originsDebate over Origins of COVID-19 Continues

    At the end of the month, the U.S. intelligence community (IC) will submit a report to President Joe Biden offering the IC’s conclusions regarding the origins of COVID-1. The report is not likely to put an end to the debate, especially since China is refusing access to key materials and personnel.

  • China watchMembers of Scientific Journal Editorial Board Resign over China Genetics Papers

    Eight members of the editorial board of Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine have resigned after the journal published several controversial papers which “critics fear could be used for DNA profiling and persecution of ethnic minorities in China.”

  • COVID originsVirus Likely Naturally Occurring: NIH

    The NIH says that based on the scientific literature, its view is that “SARS-CoV-2 infection in people most likely resulted from zoonotic transmission from animals to humans.” Current evidence does not support the assertion that the virus was engineered, but the NIH does not rule out the possibility of a laboratory accident, in which a naturally occurring virus was unintentionally released during research activities.

  • COVID originsLab-Leak of Genetically Modified Virus: Lawmakers’ Report

    Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) released on Monday a third installment in his investigation into the origins of the virus. The report says that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the pandemic outbreak stemmed from a genetically modified virus which leaked from Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • COVID originsNatural Origin or Genetic Manipulation? We “Can't Say for Sure Yet”: David Baltimore

    David Baltimore, president emeritus of Caltech and Distinguished Professor of Biology, is a virologist who received the Nobel Prize for his research into viral genetics. He says that “But the fact that evolution might have been able to generate SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t mean that that’s how it came about. I think we very much need to find out what was happening in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. I think that we can’t say for sure yet whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from natural origins or if it was genetically manipulated somehow.”

  • Truth decayMisplaced Trust: Trust in Science May Foster Pseudoscience

    Trusting science is, in principle, a good thing, but there is a catch: A new study finds that people who trust science are more likely to believe and disseminate false claims containing scientific references than people who do not trust science. In other words, says one researcher, trust in science “makes people vulnerable to pseudoscience.”

  • UFOsUFOs and Aliens in Germany

    By Matthias von Hein

    The U.S. government’s release of a report on unidentified aerial sightings has been met with much interest in Germany. Enthusiasts believe UFOs have been sighted here, too. “We’re just a small blue planet in the middle of an infinite universe,” UFO researcher Robert Fleischer says. “Anything is possible out there.”

  • ARGUMENT: Research SecurityRethinking Research Security

    How can or should the United States protect the gains of innovation without damaging the very research base it wants to protect? Ainikki Riikonen and Emily Weinstein write that the U.S. government has rightfully identified the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an adversary intent on stealing technology for its national interests, and the Department of Justice established the China Initiative as a countermeasure. “But the China Initiative misses the mark on an effective approach to research security. It is out of alignment with evolving research security initiatives in the rest of the federal government…. In its current form, research security under the China Initiative may damage America’s ability to innovate and continue defining the cutting edge of technological research in the long term.”