ASM Leadership Weighs in on Gain of Function Research

Jan. 12, 2022

Washington, D.C. – ASM CEO Stefano Bertuzzi and past president Victor DiRita, professor and chair of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University, weigh in on Gain of Function research in a First Opinion piece published in STAT News, explaining how Gain of Function research is an essential tool for advancing innovation, developing life-saving drugs and vaccines and uncovering foundational scientific knowledge. While they acknowledge some Gain of Function approaches on pathogens require a higher level of review due to potential biosafety ramifications, they reiterate that this research is necessary to advance of our understanding of biology. 

Gain of Function is a broad term that can encompass almost any type of research aimed at understanding mechanisms and processes by altering an organism in such a way that it is able to do more than it used to do. This may be accomplished in the lab by adding to or changing the organism's genetic sequence. The small subset of Gain of Function experiments that relate to infectious disease (estimated at less than 1 percent), require a higher level of review and are subject to strict protocols. 

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“To label all Gain of Function research as worrisome and requiring stringent oversight is misguided,” Bertuzzi and DiRita conclude in the editorial. “Doing so may lead to inappropriate limitations on important work that reveals fundamental mechanisms of the cell or helps create new technologies that save lives.” 

ASM supports evidence-based policy-making that draws from scientific expertise both inside and outside of governmental agencies to address the security implications of existing, emerging and reemerging health threats such as infectious diseases; promote the appropriate use of technology; anticipate and mitigate risks from emerging and disruptive technologies; and support surveillance and reporting systems. Read more about biosafety.  

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The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences. 
ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, educational opportunities and advocacy efforts. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.    

Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
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