Frontline News

Hamburg Declaration 2022: 48 global scientists call to ban gain-of-function research

'Major threat to human existence'

Posted by

February 24, 2022


12:48 PM

Hamburg Declaration 2022: 48 global scientists call to ban gain-of-function research

In a statement published yesterday called the Hamburg Declaration 2022, 48 top global scientists are urging governments and medical communities around the world to ban gain-of-function (GoF) research. 

In simple terms, gain-of-function research refers to studying how an organism can be genetically manipulated to have its properties changed. An example of this could be any one of many Hollywood films where someone gains superpowers after a scientific lab accident. 

Another example could be the coronavirus. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top medical adviser, testified before Congress in May of last year that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” The Wuhan Institute of Virology is the lab where COVID-19 was created. 

However, the NIH later admitted that it had indeed funded GoF research in Wuhan, which created the coronavirus. 

Now, some of the world’s foremost researchers are asking that GoF research be banned entirely.  

The declaration makes particular note of the fact there are other GoF experiments going on in laboratories around the world: 


Call for a Global End to High-Risk "Gain-of-Function" Research on  

Potential Pandemic Pathogens 

Conscious of the mission and responsibility of science and research to serve the welfare of humanity, to strive for truth, and to communicate the knowledge gained to the general public, the signatories of this statement wish to call attention to a major threat to human existence that has arisen in recent years as a result of novel bioengineering techniques to modify dangerous pathogens. 

Through what is generally understood as “gain-of-function” research, naturally occurring viruses are artificially adapted through changes in gene sequence to facilitate their entry into human cells, either via direct gene editing or simply via accelerated evolution in a process called passaging. This creates an enormous potential for a human pandemic, which responsible scientists and researchers have repeatedly pointed out over the past decade. In recent years, such research has been conducted on various highly dangerous pathogens such as avian influenza viruses and SARS-type coronaviruses. Much of this work has been done as part of publicly funded research projects. 

The current coronavirus pandemic clearly shows what happens when pathogens are extremely easily transmitted from person to person. Millions of people have died and the livelihoods of billions of people are threatened or have been lost altogether. This enormous devastation occurred even though the mortality rate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is comparatively low, at a level of around one percent. However, experiments are currently underway in various laboratories around the world in which much more dangerous viruses such as MERS, Ebola or Nipah viruses are being manipulated via gain-of-function. 

Unfortunately, no biotechnology laboratory in the world is safe enough to guarantee that such enhanced viruses will not escape, especially given the functions that may be purposely or accidentally gained and which are often difficult to predict. A catastrophic biosecurity breach with such viruses could be fatal for a substantial proportion of the world population, especially if the transmissibility of highly dangerous viruses via the human respiratory tract is facilitated by genetic modification or some other means. 

We as scientists are well aware of the importance of the freedom of science and research, but we nevertheless appeal to all governments in the world to stop such dangerous “gain-of-function” experiments. The risk of a global pandemic associated with this extreme type of research and the potential for the extinction of large portions of the world population is simply not tolerable and never should have been. Additionally we demand that such termination be supervised and continuously monitored by an independent international regulatory agency. 

Regardless of the particular form of constitution and government a country may have, every leader must act responsibly and contribute not only to the welfare of the population of his or her own country, but also to that of mankind as a whole. Human beings have learned to intervene in the basic molecular building blocks of nature; this creates many opportunities to preserve lives, but also new ways to terminate them accidentally. Let us take this responsibility seriously before it is too late. 

The declaration was signed by: 

Roland Wiesendanger, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c., Nanoscientist, University of Hamburg, Germany (Organizer)  

Hiroshi Arakawa, Dr., Institute of Molecular Oncology, IFOM, Milan, Italy  

Ute Bergner, Dr., Physicist, Jena, Germany  

Valentin Bruttel, Dr., Immunologist, University of Würzburg, Germany  

Colin Butler, Hon. Prof. Dr. Dr., Epidemiologist, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia  

Lounes Chikhi, Dr., Population Geneticist, CNRS, Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France  

Jean-Michel Claverie, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Medicine, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille, France  

Fabien Colombo, Communication and Sociology of Science, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France  

Malcolm Dando, Prof. Dr., Section of Peace Studies and International Development, University of  

Bradford, United Kingdom  

Étienne Decroly, Prof. Dr., Member of the Board of Directors of the French Virology Society, CNRS  

Director of Research, AFMB lab, UMR7257, Aix Marseille Université, Marseille, France  

Gilles Demaneuf, Engineer and Data Scientist, Auckland, New Zealand  

Richard Dronskowski, Prof. Dr., Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, RWTH Aachen, Germany  

Lucia Dunn, PhD, Professor of Economics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA  

Frank Fehrenbach, Prof. Dr., Faculty of Humanities, University of Hamburg, Germany  

André Goffinet, Prof. Dr., Neurobiology, University of Louvain, Belgium  

Ingrid Gogolin, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult., Department of General, Intercultural and International  

Comparative Education & Educational Psychology, University of Hamburg, Germany  

Mai He, Prof. Dr., School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, USA  

Martina Hentschel, Prof. Dr., Institute of Physics, TU Chemnitz, Germany  

Michael Hietschold, Prof. Dr., Institute of Physics, TU Chemnitz, Germany  

Burkard Hillebrands, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics, TU Kaiserslautern, Germany  

Florence Janody, Dr., i3S-Institute for Research and Innovation in Health, University of Porto,  


Bernd Kaina, Prof. Dr., Institute of Toxicology, University of Mainz, Germany  

Hideki Kakeya, Prof. Dr., School of Science and Technology, University of Tsukuba, Japan  

Bernd Kretschmer, Dr. h.c., Physicist, Freiburg i. Brsg., Germany  

Franz Kreupl, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, TU Munich, Germany  

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, Ithaca, New York, USA  

Milton Leitenberg, Senior Research Fellow, Center for International and Security Studies, University  

of Maryland, USA  

Alexander Lerchl, Prof. Dr., Biology and Ethics of Science & Technology, Jacobs University Bremen,  


Alexander Lichtenstein, Prof. Dr., I. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany  

Steven Massey, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico  

Paul-Antoine Miquel, Prof. Dr., Contemporary Biology, Toulouse 2 University, France  

Sven-Olaf Moch, Prof. Dr., II. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany  

Michael Morrissey, Dr., Lecturer for English Studies, University of Kassel, Germany  

Peter Oppeneer, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Sweden  

Anja Pistor-Hatam, Prof. Dr., Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Kiel, Germany  

Arnaud Pocheville, Dr., CNRS Researcher, Evolution and Biological Diversity Laboratory, Paul Sabatier  

University, Toulouse, France  

Steven Quay, MD, PhD, Former Facility, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA  

Monali Rahalkar, Dr., Microbiologist, Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, India  

Bahulikar Rahul, Dr., Plant Genetics and Taxonomy Expert, Development Research Foundation, Pune,  


Jürgen Schmitt, Prof. Dr., Dept. of Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany  

Nariyoshi Shinomiya, Prof. Dr., President of the National Defense Medical College, Saitama, Japan  

Michael Stuke, Prof. Dr., Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany  

Günter Theißen, Prof. Dr., Geneticist, University of Jena, Germany  

André Thess, Prof. Dr., Engineering Sciences, University of Stuttgart, Germany  

Ronny Thomale, Prof. Dr., I. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Würzburg, Germany  

Michael Thorwart, Prof. Dr., I. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Hamburg, Germany  

Rémi Tournebize, Dr., Genetics and Human Evolutionary Biology, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência,  

Oeiras, Portugal  

Frank Wilhelm, Prof. Dr., Clinical Psychology, University of Salzburg, Austria  

Allison Wilson, PhD, Science Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, Ithaca, New York, USA  

Michael Winklhofer, Prof. Dr., Institute for Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Oldeburg, Germany 

Latest Articles

Global organization discourages saying ‘mother’, 'father' in newspeak guide
Frontline News - Logo
  • Frontline News
  • Breaking News
  • Radio
Additional Episodes