Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


The Increasingly Compelling Moral Responsibilities of Life Scientists

Journal Article

David Relman - Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor, Departments of Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford School of Medicine; CISAC Co-Director; FSI Senior Fellow

Published by
Hastings Center Report, Vol. 43 no. 2, page(s) 34-35
March-April 2013

First paragraph of article:

Many of my colleagues and fellow investigators in the life sciences were surprised in late 2011 to hear about the deliberate laboratory manipulation of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses for the purpose of creating derivative strains with enhanced capacity for respiratory transmission among mammals— strains with pandemic potential and serious global consequence. More importantly, few were prepared to undertake a reasoned and dispassionate assessment of the risks and benefits of such research and of its publication. This is unfortunate, not only because the resulting paucity of scientific leadership on this topic led to emotional and often unproductive discourse, but because new  instances of concerning research will be increasingly frequent and ever more consequential as the ongoing revolution in the life sciences unfolds.