At the invitation of Germany’s Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe, held under the auspices of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first meeting of Health Ministers of the Group of Twenty leading industrialized and emerging economies (G20) took place in Berlin between 19-20 May 2017. Under the banner of “Together Today for a Healthy Tomorrow – Joint Commitment for Shaping Global Health”, the two-day meeting focused on combating global health hazards. In their closing communiqué the G20 Health Ministers recognized the importance of the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) in regard to data sharing. read more
by STEFAN ELBE
The global experience with recent outbreaks, however, reveals some big obstacles that can get in the way of rapid data sharing. Scientists may wish to withhold data until their scholarly studies are published; governments may be fearful about the repercussions of being associated with a major new outbreak; there may be intellectual property considerations around such data; countries sharing data will want to have access to new medicines and vaccines that are eventually developed; and it also remains challenging to find funders willing to pay for international databases. How to rapidly share scientific data about deadly viruses is thus an international diplomatic challenge dogging many global health organisations and scientists today.
But it is possible to develop new data sharing mechanisms that can work. At the University of Sussex we have for the first time analysed the work of GISAID, an initiative helping international scientists overcome the challenges involved in exchanging information about influenza viruses - including ones that could cause deadly global pandemics. read more
by CHRISTINA LARSON
Using technology unavailable a decade ago, when the deadly SARS virus struck, China’s CDC quickly sequenced the whole genomic code of the H7N9 virus—then submitted that information to GISAID, a publicly available international database for influenza researchers. “Using that genetic information, we could compare it to viruses we had already seen to check if we had a vaccine that would be a good match,” explains Michael Shaw, the U.S. CDC’s associate director for lab science, influenza division. read more
by DECLAN BUTLER
Researchers are scrambling to study the evolution and spread of the novel H1N1 strain of swine influenza whose leap to humans was officially confirmed last week. The possible imminent onset of a swine-flu pandemic is also testing international preparedness plans put into place to deal with something else: the much-feared H5N1 avian flu virus that has spread across Asia, Europe and Africa since 2003.
Gene sequences of the virus samples, for instance, have been promptly shared on the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database. read more
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAKARTA, Indonesia - It's a David and Goliath battle that could affect the world's ability to monitor diseases and develop lifesaving vaccines. The key issue: Should Indonesia and other developing nations have a say over crucial genetic data about their own deadly viruses?
An international network of top influenza scientists says yes, arguing that is the best way to speed development and research, but they are running into resistance from within the World Health Organization, which opposes letting countries keep intellectual property rights to virus samples they provide for research. read more
by ROBIN McDOWELL
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia says it will start sharing all information about its bird flu cases with a new public database, a move experts say will help monitor the disease following the country's yearlong standoff with the World Health Organization.
The free, online site launched Thursday, 18 months after strategic adviser Peter Bogner and 77 influential scientists and health experts wrote a letter to Nature magazine calling for information about bird flu to be shared more quickly and openly the birth of the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, or GISAID. read more
by NICHOLAS ZAMISKA
HONG KONG -- Last week, when Peter Bogner announced he was leading an effort to get bird-flu scientists to share important data, the academic journal Science summed up the scientific community's reaction: Under a photo of Mr. Bogner, it ran the caption, "Peter who?" Mr. Bogner and the scientists are confronting a thorny problem that often pits scientific ambition against the demands of public health, whether with bird flu or other diseases. read more
New York Times Editorial
At a time when health authorities are racing to head off a possible avian flu pandemic, it is distressing to learn that the World Health Organization is operating a secret database that holds the virus's genetic information.
The rationale for the closed system is that the restrictions encourage scientists who are worried about being scooped by rivals to share their data on a limited basis even before they have published their findings in a journal. Confidentiality is also needed, some say, to encourage skittish countries, worried about bad publicity or the loss of intellectual property, to release the genetic sequences of viruses found on their territory. read more