BSL-4 Lab Worker - Photo Credit –USAMRIID
Just over a year ago, in the face of mounting concerns over the safety and wisdom of certain avenues of H5N1 `bird flu’ research, a group of internationally renown Scientists Announced a 60 Day Moratorium On Some Types of H5N1 Research.
Concerns were raised initially after the 2011 ESWI Influenza Conference in Malta, where Dutch researcher Ron Fouchier revealed that he’d created a more `transmissible’ form of the H5N1 virus (see Debra MacKenzie’s New Scientist: Five Easy Mutations)
That discovery, along with similar news coming from Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a highly respected virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, set alarm bells ringing in the biosecurity community.
The voluntary moratorium was later extended beyond two months to give time for international debate, and the formulation of safety rules.
During that time we’ve seen considerable and often heated discussion over the merits (and dangers) of this type of research, including:
While these scientists have withdrawn their voluntary moratorium on certain types of H5N1 research, that does not negate any oversight regulations (and funding restrictions) that individuals countries and governmental agencies (like the NIH) have, or may, adopt.
Last March, the Office of Science Policy at the NIH released a 4 page set of guidelines for DURC (Duel Use Research of Concern) projects, and ordered a review of all current life sciences projects (see U.S. Issues new DURC Oversight Rules).
Experts at NIH meeting say H5N1 research moratorium may end soon Lisa Schnirring
H5N1 researchers question proposed HHS funding framework Lisa Schnirring
Which means that it remains up to the NIH to decide how, when, and under what circumstances government funded H5N1 research will proceed here in the United States.