July 24, 2017 – Making Viruses
Anchor lead: Scientists have successfully produced a virus from scratch, Elizabeth Tracey reports
Using freely available materials and methods, researchers have revealed the successful recreation of an extinct virus, a relative of smallpox. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist at Johns Hopkins, isn’t joining the chorus of gloom and doom surrounding the news.
Pekosz: We have emerging infectious diseases come around almost every year and for all intents and purposes, those are the same as for instance if someone was releasing a new, engineering virus into the population. So we really shouldn’t be focusing on stopping people from making viruses we should really be improving our ability to deal with these new viruses when they emerge in the human population because if we do that we’ll be able to not only stop these terrorists from using bioweapons but we’ll also be helping ourselves in terms of the naturally occurring outbreaks that happen so frequently to us. :32
Pekosz notes that a considerable amount of expertise is still required to recreate a functional virus, so he doesn’t look for this to become a common practice. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.