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Pfizer vax chief advised government on gain-of-function guidelines 4 years before COVID: Report

Director participated in National Academies panel on rule revision advice.

February 7, 2023 1:39pm

Updated: February 7, 2023 2:08pm

A leading vaccine researcher at Pfizer helped advise a U.S. federal advisory board on its revision of guidelines overseeing dangerous "gain-of-function" virology research years before the pandemic, documents show. 

Philip Dormitzer, then the chief scientific officer for vaccine research and development at Pfizer, "advised the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity during the group’s deliberation over redrafting government policies concerning gain of function research," according to a Tuesday report by Natalie Winters at War Room.

"Gain-of-function" research involves experiments to increase the pathogenicity and/or lethality of viruses in order to study their potential for infecting human hosts. Experts have for years criticized these experiments as too risky relative to their potential scientific payoffs. 

In 2014 the U.S. government issued an unprecedented pause on gain-of-function research, clamping down on funding for the experiments amid concerns of the risks associated with them. The National Academies subsequently convened two symposiums to discuss potential revisions to the U.S.'s gain-of-function guidelines in order to reinstate funding for the experiments. 

Dormitzer was a member of the planning committee of the second symposium, Winters reports, citing documentation from the National Academies Press.

In at least one instance during the symposium, the documents show, Dormitzer expressed "concern about unintended consequences, for example from the 'blowback' onto vaccine production from the controversies over [gain-of-function] studies of concern—or GOF research more generally—in academia.”

The National Academies, Winters notes, "were the most influential advisor to the NSABB, which, in turn, was responsible drafting the government’s new gain of function research policy."

The National Institutes of Health's Office of Science Policy notes on its website that the U.S. government "considered the NSABB’s findings and recommendations during the development of policy on gain-of-function research."

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