We need a UN International Agency to regulate and control research on pathogens with pandemic potential.
I find a lot of value in the statement: "COVID-19 was the dress rehearsal."
This is an interesting proposal, but as always, the devil is in the details. The proposal that these investigators make would have been even better if they would have addressed the elephants in the room up front. The following issues occur to me as being particularly important:
1) Most of the work with dangerous pathogens is being conducted in China, the United States, the UK and to a lesser extent continental Europe. Much of it is funded by the NIH, DOD, the Chinese Government and the MRC and the Wellcome Trust in the UK. China has already proven during the COVID-19 crisis that it has no interest in transparency. Why should we think that China will be any more transparent with this new agency than it has been with the WHO or other governmental and non-governmental agencies trying to unravel the origins of SARS-CoV-2?
The United States hasn’t been particularly transparent either. Documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act have been redacted to within an inch of their lives. How does a new agency address this problem?
2) How is the issue of regulatory capture addressed? In the United States, at the inception of the crisis, Drs. Fauci (NIAID) and Collins (NIH) worked feverishly to squelch any suggestions of a lab origin for COVID and to this day, Fauci claims NIAID never funded gain of function research. Can we trust government officials like these to serve on the expert panel of the new organization? One of the leading experts in the world on bat viruses is the Bat Lady of Wuhan. Should she be a leader in the new organization? How about an excellent scientist behaving like a crude politician like Kristian Anderson? Should Professor Daszak be allowed to serve?
3) The WHO has not exactly distinguished itself during the COVID crisis but rather than creating a whole new bureaucracy shouldn’t we consider adding this portfolio to the WHO’s remit?
4) And speaking of bureaucracy, is it realistic to expect the United States, China or other nations to surrender any autonomy to this new organization? The authors suggest that rules issued would be mandatory and legally binding. Realistically speaking, is there any chance that the United States, China and the UK would surrender sovereignty to a new organization with substantial or even ample representation from European investigators when the majority of the research in question and most of the funding that supports it comes from outside of Europe. Respectfully, many Americans (including me) can’t help but notice that European intellectuals often fall in love with bureaucratic notions that lead to gridlock and sclerosis and end up doing as much harm as good (consider the EU itself to see what I mean).
The authors are to be commended for proposing something to address what is sure to be a growing problem. More regulation is desperately needed. I just wish that they had fleshed out their ideas a bit more.
Thank you, Doctors! That is an interesting proposal.