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Front Public Health 2014;2:84.
Dual-use concerns—that legitimate research has the potential to be misused—are inherent in life sciences research. In the past 15 years, numerous scientific papers have raised security questions, and split opinions of scientists, ethicists, and policymakers on whether the research should have been performed or published. Some of the most high-profile examples include the addition of an immunomodulatory gene into the mousepox virus genome, which made the mousepox vaccine ineffective (and suggested that similar manipulations to the smallpox virus genome could make the smallpox vaccine ineffective); the synthesis of poliovirus, the 1918 influenza strain, and the synthesis of a bacterial cell; and “gain of function” (GOF) work on influenza viruses to explore whether H5N1 and other strains have the potential to become transmissible in humans.(1-6) Given the increasing ease of manipulating and synthesizing genetic material, and the continued expansion of biological research globally, additional dual-use concerns are certain to arise in the future.