Marcella L. Finegold Memorial Public Debate Series

Should gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens be prohibited?



Date
April 27, 2015
Time
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Speaker(s)
Marc Lipsitch, PhD, and Michael Imperiale, PhD
Location
LHAS Auditorium, Montefiore Hospital
Description
The eighth event in Pitt’s Marcella L. Finegold Memorial Public Debate Series will ask the question of whether research that explores increasing human transmissibility of potential pandemic pathogens should be permitted. The debate will be held on Monday, April 27, from noon–1:15 p.m. in the LHAS Auditorium of Montefiore Hospital. Two invited experts will join Pitt undergraduate students in debating the question, “Should gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens be prohibited?

Research to enhance the human transmissibility of pathogens such as the H5N1 influenza virus is too risky, argues Harvard University Professor of Epidemiology Marc Lipsitch, PhD. University of Michigan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Michael Imperiale, PhD, counters that such experiments could lead to lifesaving vaccines.

In October 2014, the U.S. government announced a funding pause for “gain of function” research on potentially pandemic pathogens, calling for a “robust and broad deliberative process” about the proper role of these studies in the research enterprise. While the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity carries out the formal part of this deliberative process, the University of Pittsburgh will contribute to the conversation through a public debate.

The debate will be moderated by Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Pitt’s School of Medicine, Arthur S. Levine, MD. Audience members will be invited to use response buttons that will record their opinions on the topic prior to the debate, as well as gauge the level of shifting opinions during the event.