Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of cells infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), one of the viruses banned from gain-of-function research.

Research that involves modifying certain diseases to make them more deadly will again be funded by the US government, writes Sara Reardon for Nature. Scientists can use these so called gain-of-function studies to understand what mutations a virus might need to become more deadly, or understand how a disease interacts with our immune system. But concerns about safety protocols and potential pandemics led the White House to ban funding such research in 2014.

Why it matters: If something goes wrong, such research could have deadly consequences. But proponents argue the knowledge gained can save lives. When the ban was first enacted, it applied to the flu, SARS, and MERS, but some scientists said it was too broad. It initially halted 21 projects — some of which were related to vaccine research, reports Reardon. The moratorium gave the government time to develop a regulatory framework and added layers of security.

Is it worth it?

  • Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard, told Reardon that such studies "have done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics — yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic".
  • But some researchers see promise in the work. James Paulson, a scientist at the Scripps Institute, told NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce the announcement "is very good news for laboratories interested in understanding the threat of natural pathogens to the human population."

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Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 21,020,216 — Total deaths: 761,393— Total recoveries: 13,048,303Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 5,289,323 — Total deaths: 167,948 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Health: CDC: Survivors of COVID-19 have up to three months of immunity Fauci believes normalcy will return by "the end of 2021" with vaccine — The pandemic's toll on mental health.
  4. Business: How small businesses got stiffed — Unemployment starts moving in the right direction.
  5. Cities: Coronavirus pandemic dims NYC's annual 9/11 Tribute in Light.
  6. Politics: Biden signals fall strategy with new ads.

Harris: "Women are going to be a priority" in Biden administration

Sen. Kamala Harris at an event in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In her first sit-down interview since being named Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris talked about what she'll do to fight for women if elected VP, and how the Democrats are thinking about voter turnout strategies ahead of November.

What they're saying: "In a Biden-Harris administration women are going to be a priority, understanding that women have many priorities and all of them must be acknowledged," Harris told The 19th*'s Errin Haines-Whack.

Facebook goes after Apple

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic.

The big picture: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking.