Gain of function research

Hi fellow CIDDers, In 2012 a group of scientists from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands published a report of experiments to understand the mechanisms of flu airborne transmission in a pandemic flu strain ( This research involved a gain of function experiment with the H5N1 strain of the influenza virus and the determinants of airborne spread among ferrets. The results of the research were very interesting, but at the same time they stirred a wave of misinformed fear among the public and scientists, which was mainly driven by sensationalists headlines and exaggeration. There was a symposium held by  the NIH in  washington DC to try and solve this issue. Scientist became divided over whether to allow these kinds of research to continue forward or ban any kind of gain of function experiment. While now we are in 2014, the polemic has intensified and a group called “The Cambridge Working group” ( was formed and their main objective is to exaggerate the risks associated with doing gain of function experiments in “potential pandemic strains”. They are asking for an Asilomar type of meeting (back in the day this was organized in the fears over recombinant DNA technology) and come up with rules and restrictions on this kind of work. While dialog is important, another group of scientist have felt that this is a one sided effort in order to impose unreasonable restrictions. This group is called “Scientists for science” ( which goal is to help the public understand that the resources and facilities exist for working with potential pandemic strains are the safest for this endeavor and that fear is not the way to advance our understanding of these strains. While there has been a record of accidents in biosafety  facilities, nowadays these are taken care of by the current set of standards and safety regulations put in place.

Scientists for science is looking for a meeting in which both sides can give their point of view. However, we feel that this kind of meeting can neither be organized by the cambridge working group, nor scientists for science. It must be a neutral entity that allows for a balanced dialog and no personal agendas are allowed.

If you are more interested in knowing more visit the two groups websites and make a choice to which side to follow. It is very very important that as an infectious disease researcher you have your voice heard, since this may have a big impact on the research that we may be or not be allowed to do in the future.



Please forward this to everyone you know.

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Journal club

It’s that time of year again – time to schedule our weekly journal club meetings.
I’m hoping to use journal club somewhat differently this year, and have it focus more on discussion about science and scientific tools (particularly programming and mathematical tools) as well as paper discussions.  We can talk more about this at the first meeting.
To foster freer discussion, it may be nice to host journal club somewhere other than MSC.  Potentially a coffee shop downtown, or the Rathskellar.  Our first meeting, however, will be in MSC, where we will schedule people for journal club slots and talk about what people want to see from journal club.
Without further ado: Please fill it out by Thursday, August 28th.
If you can’t make any of these times but would otherwise definitely come to journal club every week, please e-mail me.
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Lunch with Michael Turelli

Please join us for lunch with Dr. Michael Turelli (UC-Davis) immediately following his CIDD seminar! RSVP with your food preferences below by Wednesday, August 27th at 5pm.

When: Thursday, August 28th 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Where: W-203 Millennium Sciences Complex

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Raquel in EurekAlerts

Courtesy of the Hughes lab

CIDD grad student Raquel Loreto has a new paper in PLoS One that got a nice write-up in EurekAlerts. Congrats to Raquel!

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Ag scientists + Mosquitologists = Collaboration!?

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Free fitness classes

Spending too much time at you lab bench? Fitness classes at the White Building are free with your Penn State ID this week through next Wednesday.

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Intangibles of Teaching

Next Tuesday, August 19, CGSA is lunching with Wayne Geerling. He will be giving a short presentation on the Intangibles of Teaching followed by an open discussion on how graduate students (and all teachers) should approach teaching, how to make learning fun and interesting, and effective tools to add to our teaching toolboxes.

For those of us with long-term career plans that include teaching, or for those of us who expect TA-ing to be the most teaching we will ever do, the workshop and discussion should be valuable to learn about public speaking and science communication, integral to any career path, teaching aside.

We would like to open this up to all of CIDD so that we can hear current lecturers and senior faculty chime in with their perspectives on teaching, which would add to the conversation. Spread the word to friends in Ento or Eco grad programs as well. Should be a fun and interesting lunch.

Date: Tuesday, August 19

Time: 12 – 1 p.m.

Place: W-203 in MSC

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Weird Science series

Narratively‘s theme this week is weird science, and the articles so far (on Maysam Ghovanloo’s tongue-driven wheelchairs and David Edwards’ inhalable particle technology) have been inspiring both from a scientific and entrepreneurial standpoint.

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WHO internship program

This could be an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in zoonotic disease surveillance and assessment:

h/t Andrew Read

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Why grad students go beyond research

…and love it!

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