Should scientists experiment with highly contagious pathogens?

first_imgThe current controversy about the wisdom of conducting experiments with pathogens that are genetically engineered to be more contagious presents a unique opportunity to set an effective precedent on the issue of biological experiments that carry large-scale risks, according to a Foreign Affairs article co-authored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch.In the August 31, 2015 article, Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, and co-author David A. Relman of Stanford University noted that the U.S. government suspended funding last October for so-called “gain-of-function” research on avian flu. In such research, more contagious forms of the highly pathogenic flu would be created in the laboratory so that scientists could learn more about the genetics required for a flu strain to cause a pandemic.The authors have been outspoken critics of such research, arguing that it poses great risks—most notably the possibility of a lab accident or deliberate misuse of extremely contagious and virulent pathogens, and that the benefits of such research could be achieved by alternative, safer means. That’s why the government imposed its funding moratorium, which is coinciding with an international deliberative process that aims to assess the risks and benefits of the research. The authors argue that the risks of future biological experiments, involving new techniques of genetic modification in which a laboratory accident could harm whole human, animal or plant populations, will be even more controversial. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Indian American Mayor Says He Received Death Threats

first_imgRavinder Bhalla, the Indian American mayor of New Jersey’s Hoboken city, has acknowledged that he and his family received death threats. Bhalla’s statement came following a breach of security at City Hall that took place on Feb.15.City spokesman Juan Melli said that a man entered the City Hall at 8 pm. After passing through the metal detectors, the man told the security personnel that he wanted to use the restroom, PTI reported.According to the police, Bhalla’s deputy chief of staff, Jason Freeman, who was in his office, noticed that the man threw a bag, which had an object inside it at the administrative assistant’s desk and sprinted out of the office. Bhalla at that point was out of his office, CBS New York reported.Freeman had made eye contact with the man and called the police. “This incident, along with death threats to me and my family, is an unfortunate reminder that we need to take security seriously,” Bhalla, the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, said in the statement. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force has evaluated City Hall, and we have been working to implement their recommendations for physical and procedural changes to improve security for all employees in the building,” he added.Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante stated that these matters are taken seriously by the department. “We will continue working to ensure the security of the mayor and everyone who visits City Hall,” Ferrante said, according to reports.Born and raised in New Jersey, Bhalla was elected Hoboken’s 39th mayor on Nov. 7, 2017, after he emerged winner in the six-candidate mayoral race. He was backed by Dawn Zimmer, the outgoing Mayor, who made a surprise announcement in June 2017 about not seeking a third term in office.Ahead of the mayoral election in  November last year, slanderous fliers calling Bhalla a “terrorist” were left on car windshields of residents. The fliers carried a photo of Bhalla with text saying: “Don’t let terrorism take over our town!”Bhalla had then spoken about the issue of racism seeping through the campaign. “There’s been an undercurrent of racism I’ve seen in this campaign,” Bhalla had then said to New York Daily News. “That sort of whispering campaign has come to the surface now, where people have the audacity to send a flier like that.” Related ItemsHobokenIndian AmericanNew Jerseylast_img read more