Fauci recommends extended moratorium on risky research

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended this week that researchers take part in an extended moratorium on dual-use research like the recent H5N1 transmissibility studies.

A voluntary 60 day moratorium on H5N1 transmissibility research was initiated when 39 influenza researchers signed a letter on January 20. The moratorium was later extended by an expert panel from the World Health Organization after the panel recommended that the researchers publish the full results. The WHO extension was meant to give experts worldwide the opportunity to address biosecurity concerns about the research and to convey the importance of the studies to the public, The Scientist reports.

Many discussions have occurred during the four month long moratorium, including a new U.S. government policy regarding the review of dual-use research. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity also recommended that the H5N1 study results be fully published. On Friday, the Dutch government granted Ron Fouchier an export license for the publication of his H5N1 transmissibility study.

Fauci and other experts said that more must be done before such research can continue unabated.

"Although this particular issue appears to have been resolved, it's going to recur and we can't just 'kick this can down the road' and deal with it on an ad hoc basis when it happens again," Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the chairman of the panel, said, according to The Scientist.