In January 2006, when mainstream media first took notice of human fatalities caused by the deadly bird flu, public access to the latest genetic sequences of highly pathogenic avian influenza e.g. H5N1 was limited and often restricted due to the hesitancy by affected countries to share their information through traditional public domain archives such as EMBL, DDBJ and GenBank.
Public Domain archives, where access and use of data takes place anonymously, neither offered any protection of the owners' intellectual property rights to the data, or any other valuable incentive to incentivize the sharing of data, such as transparency on the use of data or effective mechanisms that would ensure the acknowledgement of the owners of the virus and recognition of the submitters of the data. Another hurdle responsible for the lack of rapidly sharing influenza data was in part due to the concern of scientists that they were often not credited for their contribution of data, and to no lesser extent, their worry of being ‘scooped’ by those publishing a manuscript first, without their consent.
An entirely new approach to overcome these hurdles was urgently needed, one that would provide a sharing mechanism that sets forth a scientific etiquette for the public access and use of influenza data in a verifiable and transparent manner.
The GISAID platform was launched on the occasion of the Sixty-first World Health Assembly in May 2008. Created as an alternative to the public domain sharing model, GISAID's sharing mechanism took into account the concerns of Member States by providing a publicly accessible database designed by scientist for scientist, to improve the sharing of influenza data.
Since its launch GISAID plays an essential role in the sharing of data among the WHO Collaborating Centers and National Influenza Centers for the bi-annual influenza vaccine virus recommendations by the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS).
In 2010 the Federal Republic of Germany became the official host of the GISAID platform and EpiFlu™ database providing sustainability of the platform and stability through its public-private-partnership with the GISAID Initiative to this day. (BMEL)
In 2013 the European Commission recognized GISAID as a research organization and partner in the PREDEMICS consortium, a project on the Preparedness, Prediction and the Prevention of Emerging Zoonotic Viruses with Pandemic Potential using multidisciplinary approaches.