I am not one of those who is prepared to extrapolate the exponential curves of demand for a definite period in the future and reach a doomsday conclusion. Critics of the move have also said it could still create an accidental pandemic.
Researchers will now be able to manufacture strains of influenza, Sars and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Mers in the lab. The decision overturns a three-year research funding ban imposed after safety breaches at federal institutions risked the outbreak of dangerous viruses.
Later that year, vials of smallpox which had been left in a cardboard box were found by a government scientist at a research centre near Washington. A subsequent ban covered federal funding for any new so-called "gain-of-function" experiments that enhance pathogens.
One of the concerns with "gain-of-function" research is that while the work may produce useful insights, laboratory-enhanced pathogens could be used for biowarfare or bioterrorism if they fell into the wrong hands. The US National Institutes of Health NIH called for the ban on funding research into deadly viruses to be lifted, promising to introduce new safeguards.
The government agreed following suggestions that a number of US states would be poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak of a deadly virus.
Critics of the move have also said it could still create an accidental pandemic. Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, told the journal Nature that such experiments "have done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics - yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic". Francis Collins, the NIH director, said the funding ban had been lifted after the US government issued a safety framework to guide the Trading System Missile League work.
The NIH has promised to follow "a rigorous process that we really want to be sure we're doing right," he said.