Lab-Created Bird Flu Virus Accident Shows Lax Oversight of Risky ‘Gain of Function’ Research

The story of how the H5N1 viruses came to be created – and the response to a 2019 safety breach – raises uncomfortable questions about the tremendous trust the world is placing in research labs.

April 11, 2023 | Source: USA Today | by Alison Young

This exclusive article is adapted from former USA TODAY investigative reporter Alison Young’s forthcoming book “Pandora’s Gamble: Lab Leaks, Pandemics, and a World at Risk,” which will be released April 25. In this excerpt, Young reveals for the first time details of a December 2019 lab safety breach involving one of the world’s most infamous lab-created “gain of function” viruses – and the efforts that were made to downplay the event, avoid notifying health authorities and oversight bodies, and keep the public and policymakers in the dark.

Inside the high-security Influenza Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, two experienced scientists were pulling ferrets out of their HEPA-filtered cages on a Monday in December 2019. Another researcher, still in training, was also in the room to watch and learn.