E&C Requests GAO Assess Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Research

Washington, D.C. – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an examination of the risks and benefits derived from gain-of-function research involving pathogens with pandemic potential.

The letter also requests that GAO gather more information about the way “gain-of-function” research is being defined and used by various U.S. agencies. The request is intended to clarify conflicting definitions of the term.

Key Letter Excerpts:

"The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the debate about the risks and benefits of a type of potentially high-risk research called 'gain-of-function' research involving pathogens with pandemic potential. However, this term is not well understood and is often misused. 'Gain-of-function' is a broad term that covers research that, among other things, involves genetically altering an organism, which may include increasing a pathogen's ability to cause a pandemic.


"As 'gain-of-function' research could entail biosafety, and public health risks, the risks and benefits of this research must be evaluated to determine which types of studies should go forward and under what conditions.

"Further, until we know the tangible outcomes of 'gain-of-function' research, we cannot know if the benefits outweigh the risks."

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.


This letter builds on the Committee’s investigative efforts on high-risk research, like “gain-of-function” research. On April 27th, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled “Biosafety and Risky Research: Examining if Science is Outpacing Policy and Safety.”

In June 2023, Committee leaders sent letters to the CDC, HHS, and NIH seeking information on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity safety practices at those agencies. The Committee calls on the Biden administration to increase transparency both in declassifying information related to the origins of COVID-19 and in the U.S. government’s role in funding risky virus research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.