Life as an Extreme Sport

What’s With NASGOF2 and House Ferret?

If you’ve been watching my Twitter account, you’ve undoubtedly seen my parody of Game of Thrones over the last week: NASGOF2 is Coming/NASEM. And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan who works in or around gain-of-function/dual-use research of concern, then you likely giggled and nodded and probably planned to if not be at today’s meeting, at least watch it live on the internets. If you’re a dual use person who isn’t familiar with Game of Thrones, I can’t help you–I don’t watch the show, either. All I know are the memes from the first season’s “Winter is Coming” advertisements, and I happen to both have Photoshop and be married to a fan of the show who is also one of the dual use experts. So when he offered his suggestion (instead of what I was working on), I jumped. What was this remarkably funny suggestion? The profile of a

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An Ebolanoia Anniversary–Or, The Emperor’s [Lack of] Disclosures

It’s the Ebolanioa anniversary! Over at Slate, Tara C. Smith takes us through a quick walk down memory lane, and the utterly outsized reactions and political theatre America went through a year ago: quarantines and threats and Daesh-licking doorknob villains, oh my. One thing still sticks in my craw: the utterly ludicrous suggestion from respected epidemiologist Michael T. Osterholm that we were all just afraid to talk about Ebola becoming airborne, but it was a real threat. Even though multiple, well-respected virologists and Ebola experts immediately corrected Osterholm’s panic piece, the panic piece is what took life, with other news outlets repeating him word-for-word–and few people questioning why such a respected epidemiologist would even propose such an outlandish thing, let alone in the pages of a New York Times op-ed rather than in a respected, peer reviewed publication. While it pains me to point this out, because Osterholm was quite

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June: National Ship Live Anthrax Month!

Okay, I know we’re a bit ahead of June, but we’re within shipping for June, right? And at this point, a rather concerning pattern of “shipping live anthrax” is developing. Yep! It’s that time again! Er, yet another mishap involving a lab sending a viable select agent to someone who shouldn’t have it. Er, someones. In this case, an unknown number of private commercial labs in nine states. NINE! And that would be alarming in and of itself, without that whole one year ago gift that keeps on giving. Or the previous Oakland Children’s Hospital incident in 2004. Well. I guess in defense of the CDC, who owns the previous mishaps, this was a Department of Defense lab “mishap.” Very seriously, it appears there’s an issue here beyond “oh oops, culture of carelessness” – we have three clear and separate incidents of live anthrax being shipped out to people who

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CRISPR and the Amoral Othering of Chinese Researchers

I’ve been under a rock for the last week or so, first at a conference in San Diego, and then fighting off a nasty combination of strep throat, laryngitis, and double ear infections. (So when I say “under a rock,” I mean hiding under the blankets in my bed, spending most of my time sleeping.) So while bits and pieces of the “CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in human tripronuclear zygotes” paper published in Protein & Cell by researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, made its way to me, it wasn’t until today I felt well enough to say anything about it–mostly because I don’t expect what I have to say will be very popular. So without further adieu, a few unpopular thoughts on Zhou, Huang, et al’s paper. Claim The paper was rejected by Nature, Science, other top journals, for being unethical. Hah. Ahem. Look, if Nature, Science, et

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Paternalism, Procedure, Precedent: The Ethics of Using Unproven Therapies in an Ebola Outbreak

The WHO medical ethics panel convened Monday to discuss the ethics of using experimental treatments for Ebola in West African nations affected by the disease. I am relieved to note that this morning they released their unanimous recommendation: “it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.” There are, of course, the common caveats about ethical criteria guiding the interventions, but ultimately the recommendation has saved me from a tortured “WHO’s on first”-style commentary.[note]For other commentary on the committee composition, see Udo Schuklenk’s short, sweet, and to the point commentary; you can also read his reaction to their statement here.[/note] I’m sure we all appreciate that. But just because the WHO recommendation follows what I’ve been arguing for the last 10-odd days doesn’t mean that the argument is actually over. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s

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