Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Scientists Declare End To H5N1 Research Moratorium


BSL-4 Lab Worker - Photo Credit –USAMRIID


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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:


mBio: Should The H5N1 Research Moratorium End? 

Science Publishes The Fouchier Ferret Study 

H5N1 Research: A Plethora Of Positions

WHO News Release On Geneva H5N1 Technical Meeting


Today, that same group of scientists published a letter simultaneously in the Journal Nature and the Journal Science, announcing the end to that self-imposed moratorium.


While these scientists have withdrawn their voluntary moratorium on certain types of H5N1 research, that does not negate any oversight regulations (and funding restrictions) that individuals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).


And last October the HHS Called For Public Comment On H5N1 Research, in advance of an NIH workshop held in mid December. Details on that two-day meeting are available from CIDRAP NEWS.


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.

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