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Horsepox and the need for a new norm, more transparency, and stronger oversight for experiments that pose pandemic risks

Tom Inglesby
Date posted:
October 04, 2018
Publication type:

PLOS Pathogens


In January 2018, Dr. David Evans from the University of Alberta and his colleagues published a scientific paper describing the synthesis of the horsepox virus de novo. Horsepox doesn’t cause infection in humans, but another related virus—Variola major—causes smallpox. The publication of the horsepox synthesis process lowers technical hurdles for making smallpox de novo. This commentary argues that there are serious potential adverse implications of this work that don’t justify the purported benefits. It also makes the case that there should be a new norm related to experiments that increase pandemic risks and that there should be more transparency and stronger oversight for biological research and science that increases pandemic risks.



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