Deadly breakthrough? Scientists revive cousin of smallpox virus that killed 1 billion people

Small Pox mother with her children
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Scientists in Canada have used commercially available genetic material to piece together the extinct horsepox virus, a cousin of the smallpox virus that killed as many as a billion human beings before being eradicated.

The laboratory achievement was reported … in a news article in the journal Science.

The lead researcher in Canada, David Evans, a molecular virologist at the University of Alberta, told The Washington Post that his efforts are aimed at developing vaccines and cancer treatments. There is nothing dangerous about the synthetic horsepox virus, which is not harmful to humans.

He has not yet published his findings in a scientific journal….

Evans said he has applied for a patent and is collaborating with a commercial company, Tonix Pharmaceuticals. In a news release, Tonix said it hopes to use horsepox virus to develop a new vaccine for smallpox that is safer than the one currently available, which can have serious side effects.

Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, said the breakthrough was not surprising but probably makes the debate over destroying the existing smallpox stockpiles less relevant. He said it highlights the need to monitor more closely “dual-use” experiments — research that could be used either for protective purposes or, in theory, to create a deadly pathogen.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Scientists synthesize smallpox cousin in ominous breakthrough

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