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U.S. Health Officials Outline New Policies For Funding Research On H5N1 Avian Flu, Other Potentially Dangerous Agents

“U.S. health authorities [on Thursday] outlined the conditions for funding research on the H5N1 bird flu virus a month after scientists lifted a yearlong pause on the work that was imposed amid concerns it could be used by terrorists,” Bloomberg reports (Bennett, 2/21). “One policy, released by [HHS], applies only to scientists seeking funds for experiments that might create new strains of the H5N1 virus that can move between mammals in respiratory droplets,” ScienceInsider writes, adding, “The other document, released by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), asks for public comment on proposed new rules for scientists, universities, and other institutions working with a broader set of 15 especially dangerous agents and toxins — including H5N1 — that could be used to cause harm,” so-called “dual-use” research (Malakoff, 2/21).

“The new decision-making policy on these types of H5N1 experiments aims at balancing the risks and benefits,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports, adding, “It lays out a special review process and seven different criteria that proposed experiments would have to meet” (Greenfieldboyce, 2/21). “One of the seven criteria is a requirement that research will be ‘anticipated to be broadly shared in order to realize its potential benefits to global health,’” the Los Angeles Times writes (Brown, 2/21). NPR notes “next week, the World Health Organization is hosting a meeting in Geneva to discuss the dual-use problem. About 200 invitees will discuss existing approaches and safeguards to managing this type of research, as well as consider critical gaps in oversight” (2/21).