Second controversial H5N1 study published

Ron Fouchier

The second of two H5N1 transmissibility studies was published on Thursday in the journal Science, ending a waiting period and raising questions over how future dual-use research of concern and voluntary moratoriums will be handled.

The study was conducted by Ron Fouchier and his colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. The first study, which was published last month in Nature, was conducted by Yoshihiro Kawaoka and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, answered questions related to dual-use research and voluntary moratoriums on Wednesday during a press conference, CIDRAP News reports.

Fauci said that the U.S. government has learned critical lessons about dealing with DURC that led to the creation of federal agency guidelines that were published on March 29. The government is currently in the process of developing additional guidelines for biosafety commissions at research institutions to evaluate DURC.

In addressing the voluntary moratorium on DURC researchers agreed to in January, Fauci said that researchers are struggling with putting together criteria for the next phases of DURC research.

“I can’t tell you when it’s going to be voluntarily lifted, but we are working very hard right now to get a process in place where we could have some broad general criteria of the kinds of experiments that could be done,” Fauci said, according to CIDRAP News.

Fauci, along with Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, co-wrote commentary to go along with the published study in Science. The authors wrote that communication must be made more effective between researchers in the government to avoid such conflicts in the future.

“The ultimate goal of the new US government-wide DURC policy is to ensure that the conduct and communication of research in this area remain transparent and open and that the risk/benefit balance of such research clearly tips toward benefiting society,” Fauci and Collins said, according to CIDRAP News.

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