Democrats block measures to stop gain-of-function research

Gain of function is a process by which researchers genetically modify a virus

Updated: August 4, 2022 - 7:54pm

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Senate Democrats on Thursday declined to offer unanimous consent to two measures to stop gain-of-function research, a process now infamous over its alleged connection to the spread of COVID-19.

Republican Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall put forward both the Viral Gain of Function Research Moratorium Act and the SAFE Risk Research Act, which aimed to cut funding to universities conducting such research and foreign countries doing so, respectively.

Gain of function is a process by which researchers genetically modify a virus. It has the potential for risk as an enhanced virus could potentially become a significant threat to humanity.

Earlier this year, Congress banned funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese lab that U.S. intelligence and many Republicans suspect may have been the source of the coronavirus.

Marshall first introduced the Viral Gain of Function Research Moratorium Act in October of last year. Democrats denied Marshall's Thursday bid for unanimous consent, meaning the bill's passage will not be expedited.

“It is disturbing that one of our top public health agencies directed this risky research to be offshored while encouraging the pause in that exact same research in the U.S.," Marshall said on the Senate floor on Thursday, per a press release from his office. "Despite warnings and past lab accidents, our public health agencies like NIH continue to fund the WMD research, often in China nonetheless."

"Shockingly, Congress has minimal insight into the amount of this research at NIH," he continued. "There is no transparency into their risk evaluation process."

"This is a national security issue," Marshall insisted. "We must pause this research until national security experts can help create appropriate risk metrics, guardrails and processes for this research."

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