Assessing the Risks and Benefits of Conducting Research on Pathogens of Pandemic Potential


In October 2014, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced a funding pause on selected “Gain of Function” (GoF) research involving influenza viruses, SARS coronavirus, and MERS coronavirus, namely experiments that are “reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route” (White House OSTP Moratorium Memo). OSTP called for a deliberative process to evaluate the risks and potential benefits of this research, which would culminate in the development and adoption of a new US Government (USG) policy governing the funding and conduct of GoF research and the cessation of the funding pause.


The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) served as the official federal advisory body on GoF research issues and was responsible for developing recommendations for the appropriate level of Federal oversight of GoF research. To inform the NSABB’s deliberations on this issue, Gryphon Scientific was contracted by the NIH Office of Science Policy to conduct risk and benefit assessments (RBA) of GoF research involving the pathogens subject to the funding pause. Our assessment was divided into four components:

  1. Biosafety risk assessment
  2. Assessment of biosecurity risks due to intentional acts against the laboratory
  3. Assessment of biosecurity risks due to misuse of information
  4. Benefit assessment

Contained on this page are Gryphon’s final and draft reports to NIH OSP and NSABB, Gryphon’s presentations on the RBA, as well as Supplemental Information supporting the conclusions and findings in the report.