Biomedical Research in Times of Emergency: Lessons From History.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands, and utterly disrupted the daily lives of billions of people around the world. In an effort to ameliorate this devastation, the biomedical research complex has allocated billions of dollars and scientists have initiated hundreds of clinical trials in an expedited effort to understand, prevent, and treat this disease. National emergencies can stimulate significant investment of financial, physical, and intellectual resources that catalyze impressive scientific accomplishments, as evident with the Manhattan Project, penicillin, and the polio vaccines in the 20th century. However, pressurized research has also led to false promises, disastrous consequences, and breaches in ethics. Antiserum in the 1918 flu epidemic, contaminated yellow fever vaccines in World War II, and unethical human experimentation with mustard gas offer just a few cautionary exemplars. It is critical to continue biomedical research efforts to address this pandemic, and it is appropriate that they receive priority in both attention and funding. But history also demonstrates the importance of treating early results-such as those associated with hydroxychloroquine-with caution as we only begin to understand the biology, epidemiology, and potential target points of COVID-19.
Doroshow, D; Podolsky, S; Barr, J
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