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NIH Responds To Criticism Over Handling Of Controversial Bird Flu Studies

In a letter (.pdf) dated April 25, Amy Patterson, associate director for science policy in the office of the director of the National Institutes of Health, “has refuted criticism of the way a meeting held to allow a biosecurity advisory group to review controversial bird flu studies was handled,” denying “the agenda was crafted to achieve a predetermined outcome,” the Canadian Press/Winnipeg Free Press writes. Patterson was “responding to a harsh critique of the meeting from Michael Osterholm, a member of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity [NSABB],” who, in a letter (.doc) to Patterson dated April 12, criticized “the agenda and speakers list” of the March 29-30 meeting, the news service writes (Branswell, 5/4).

According to Nature’s “News Blog,” Patterson “responded to Osterholm’s critiques point by point.” According to the blog, “She says that [Osterholm] did not provide recommendations for experts to speak at the meeting,” and “she notes that although she respects his opinions and perspectives, ‘I do believe that some of them were based in part on a misunderstanding of the facts'” (Maher, 5/4). “She went on to list steps the government and the NSABB are taking to deal with ‘the larger issue of how to communicate DURC [dual-use research of concern] responsibly,” including “continuing efforts ‘to develop a secure mechanism for disseminating sensitive scientific information to those with a legitimate need to know,'” CIDRAP News notes (5/4).