Former U.S. State Department official joins GISAID in senior advisory role on data and biosecurity issues

Dr Bruce A. Ruscio joins the GISAID Initiative in a senior advisory role to provide evidence-based policy guidance on international data sharing and biosecurity issues relevant to GISAID’s core mission of enabling rapid and open access to influenza virus data to detect and mitigate seasonal and pandemic influenza.

"GISAID’s data sharing is vital in enabling the global community to detect and respond rapidly in the global fight against seasonal and pandemic influenza” says Dr Ruscio.

We live in a globally connect world where pathogens can move across continents in a matter of hours. Speed is essential for the global research and public health communities to detect and respond to a potential outbreak. On a 24/7 basis GISAID ensures crucial influenza information is widely available. The rapid availability of genetic, virological and epidemiological data transforms our ability to mitigate seasonal influenza and respond effectively to novel viruses with potential to cause epidemics and even pandemics.

However, policy challenges and opportunities remain in ensuring that rapid and open sharing of influenza information continues as a routine component of the global fight against influenza. At both international and national levels potential biosecurity risks must also consider malign as well as beneficial use of unrestricted public access to influenza genetic data.

Careful consideration must also be given to ensure that fair and equitable benefit-sharing results from access to data while not delaying or inhibiting research and development, especially in a pandemic response situation. These, and other policy issues, will only be resolved through dialogue and collaboration between scientists, ethicists, biosecurity experts, social scientists, policy makers and the public.

We cannot delay; being prepared is the only option.