Horsepox Virus Creation, Aimed at Smallpox Vaccine, Stirs Controversy

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  • Margaret Kosal Margaret Kosal

Margaret Kosal, associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, wrote an excerpt on the biosecurity controversy surrouding the recreation of the extinct horsepox virus that was feautred in in the Infectious Disease News, February 26, article, “Horsepox Virus Creation, Aimed at Smallpox Vaccine, Stirs Controversy.” The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs is part of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.


In the recent article “Construction of an infectious horsepox virus vaccine from chemically synthesized DNA fragments,” which appeared in PLoS One, the University of Alberta’s Dr. David Evans and colleagues report “the first complete synthesis of a pox virus using synthetic biology approaches,” specifically the extinct horsepox virus, and a potential candidate for development of a new vaccine against smallpox. The underlying research has been the subject of discussion within the biosecurity community for over a year, since Evans presented details of his work on synthesizing the virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research in November 2016.

Evans had reportedly gone through all the biosafety and biosecurity procedures required by the Canadian government and his university before starting the research. All evidence indicates that everything was done properly and more than sufficiently. So, what’s the concern?

The concern is one that has been seen before, most notably with the successful chemical synthesis of polio virus in 2001 and the reconstruction of the influenza A (N1N1) virus responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu in 2005. The concern is that the techniques and methods might be hijacked for more malicious use in the development of biological weapons. It is the dual-use conundrum of cutting-edge science, especially synthetic biology in the 21st century.

For the full article, visit the Infectious Disease News website.


Additional Information


Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs

Institute and Campus
smallpox, vaccine, horsepox, virus, dna
  • Created By: ralu3
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Mar 14, 2018 - 12:47pm
  • Last Updated: Mar 14, 2018 - 12:55pm