More than 3 years after imposing a moratorium on U.S. funding for certain studies with dangerous viruses, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today lifted this so-called “pause” and announced a new plan for reviewing such research. But federal officials haven’t decided the fate of a handful of studies on influenza and the MERS virus that were put on hold in October 2014. Two investigators whose controversial research on the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus are among 11 studies on hold welcomed the end of the pause.
“This NIH decision allows us to move forward,” said virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, by email. NIH officials believe that the pending studies are probably outdated and that scientists will want to submit new proposals. The new process, says NIH director Francis Collins, “will help to facilitate the safe, secure, and responsible conduct of this type of research.” Critics of the studies, meanwhile, are withholding judgment until they see how the review process plays out. READ MORE