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.
“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.”