48 top scientists are calling for a worldwide ban on Dr. Athony Fauci’s deadly “gain of function research”, which has “the potential for the extinction of large portions of the world population”. Especially ongoing research on highly lethal viruses like MERS and Ebola has the scientists worried, who state that “no biotechnology laboratory in the world is safe enough” for this kind of potentially pandemic research.
Call for a Global End to High-Risk “Gain-of-Function” Research on Potential Pandemic Pathogens
Conscious of the mission and responsibility of science and research to serve the welfare of humanity, to strive for truth, and to communicate the knowledge gained to the general public, the signatories of this statement wish to call attention to a major threat to human existence that has arisen in recent years as a result of novel bioengineering techniques to modify dangerous pathogens.
Through what is generally understood as “gain-of-function” research, naturally occurring viruses are artificially adapted through changes in gene sequence to facilitate their entry into human cells, either via direct gene editing or simply via accelerated evolution in a process called passaging. This creates an enormous potential for a human pandemic, which responsible scientists and researchers have repeatedly pointed out over the past decade. In recent years, such research has been conducted on various highly dangerous pathogens such as avian influenza viruses and SARS-type coronaviruses. Much of this work has been done as part of publicly funded research projects.
The current coronavirus pandemic clearly shows what happens when pathogens are extremely easily transmitted from person to person. Millions of people have died and the livelihoods of billions of people are threatened or have been lost altogether. This enormous devastation occurred even though the mortality rate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is comparatively low, at a level of around one percent. However, experiments are currently underway in various laboratories around the world in which much more dangerous viruses such as MERS, Ebola or Nipah viruses are being manipulated via gain-of-function.
Unfortunately, no biotechnology laboratory in the world is safe enough to guarantee that such enhanced viruses will not escape, especially given the functions that may be purposely or accidentally gained and which are often difficult to predict. A catastrophic biosecurity breach with such viruses could be fatal for a substantial proportion of the world population, especially if the transmissibility of highly dangerous viruses via the human respiratory tract is facilitated by genetic modification or some other means.
We as scientists are well aware of the importance of the freedom of science and research, but we nevertheless appeal to all governments in the world to stop such dangerous “gain-of-function” experiments. The risk of a global pandemic associated with this extreme type of research and the potential for the extinction of large portions of the world population is simply not tolerable and never should have been. Additionally we demand that such termination be supervised and continuously monitored by an independent international regulatory agency.
Regardless of the particular form of constitution and government a country may have, every leader must act responsibly and contribute not only to the welfare of the population of his or her own country, but also to that of mankind as a whole. Human beings have learned to intervene in the basic molecular building blocks of nature; this creates many opportunities to preserve lives, but also new ways to terminate them accidentally. Let us take this responsibility seriously before it is too late.
Roland Wiesendanger, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c., Nanoscientist, University of Hamburg, Germany (Organizer)
Hiroshi Arakawa, Dr., Institute of Molecular Oncology, IFOM, Milan, Italy
Ute Bergner, Dr., Physicist, Jena, Germany
Valentin Bruttel, Dr., Immunologist, University of Würzburg, Germany
Colin Butler, Hon. Prof. Dr. Dr., Epidemiologist, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Lounes Chikhi, Dr., Population Geneticist, CNRS, Toulouse University, Paul Sabatier, France
Jean-Michel Claverie, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Medicine, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille, France
Fabien Colombo, Communication and Sociology of Science, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France
Malcolm Dando, Prof. Dr., Section of Peace Studies and International Development, University of Bradford, United Kingdom
Étienne Decroly, Prof. Dr., Member of the Board of Directors of the French Virology Society, CNRS Director of Research, AFMB lab, UMR7257, Aix Marseille Université, Marseille, France
Gilles Demaneuf, Engineer and Data Scientist, Auckland, New Zealand
Richard Dronskowski, Prof. Dr., Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, RWTH Aachen, Germany
Lucia Dunn, PhD, Professor of Economics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
Frank Fehrenbach, Prof. Dr., Faculty of Humanities, University of Hamburg, Germany
André Goffinet, Prof. Dr., Neurobiology, University of Louvain, Belgium
Ingrid Gogolin, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult., Department of General, Intercultural and International Comparative Education & Educational Psychology, University of Hamburg, Germany
Mai He, Prof. Dr., School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, USA
Martina Hentschel, Prof. Dr., Institute of Physics, TU Chemnitz, Germany
Michael Hietschold, Prof. Dr., Institute of Physics, TU Chemnitz, Germany
Burkard Hillebrands, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics, TU Kaiserslautern, Germany
Florence Janody, Dr., i3S-Institute for Research and Innovation in Health, University of Porto, Portugal
Bernd Kaina, Prof. Dr., Institute of Toxicology, University of Mainz, Germany
Hideki Kakeya, Prof. Dr., School of Science and Technology, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Bernd Kretschmer, Dr. h.c., Physicist, Freiburg i. Brsg., Germany
Franz Kreupl, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, TU Munich, Germany
Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, Ithaca, New York, USA
Milton Leitenberg, Senior Research Fellow, Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland, USA
Alexander Lerchl, Prof. Dr., Biology and Ethics of Science & Technology, Jacobs University Bremen, Germany
Steven Massey, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Paul-Antoine Miquel, Prof. Dr., Contemporary Biology, Toulouse 2 University, France
Sven-Olaf Moch, Prof. Dr., II. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany
Michael Morrissey, Dr., Lecturer for English Studies, University of Kassel, Germany
Peter Oppeneer, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Sweden
Anja Pistor-Hatam, Prof. Dr., Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Kiel, Germany
Steven Quay, MD, PhD, Former Facility, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA
Monali Rahalkar, Dr., Microbiologist, Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, India
Bahulikar Rahul, Dr., Plant Genetics and Taxonomy Expert, Development Research Foundation, Pune, India
Jürgen Schmitt, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany
Nariyoshi Shinomiya, Prof. Dr., President of the National Defense Medical College, Saitama, Japan
Michael Stuke, Prof. Dr., Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany
Günter Theissen, Prof. Dr., Geneticist, University of Jena, Germany
André Thess, Prof. Dr., Engineering Sciences, University of Stuttgart, Germany
Ronny Thomale, Prof. Dr., I. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Würzburg, Germany
Michael Thorwart, Prof. Dr., I. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany
Rémi Tournebize, Dr., Genetics and Human Evolutionary Biology, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal
Frank Wilhelm, Prof. Dr., Clinical Psychology, University of Salzburg, Austria
Allison Wilson, PhD, Science Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, Ithaca, New York, USA
Michael Winklhofer, Prof. Dr., Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Oldenburg, Germany