April 13, 2012

Statement on NSABB’s March 30, 2012 Recommendations to NIH on H5N1 Research

On March 29-30, 2012, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) was convened to examine two revised manuscripts regarding the transmissibility of the H5N1 avian flu virus in ferrets.

The NSABB is an independent federal advisory committee chartered to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and all Federal entities that conduct, support, or have an interest in life sciences research regarding biosecurity oversight of dual use research, defined as biological research with legitimate scientific purpose that may be misused to pose a biologic threat to public health and/or national security.

After careful deliberation, the NSABB unanimously recommended that the revised manuscript submitted by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka be communicated in full. The NSABB also recommended, in a 12-to-6 decision, that the data, methods, and conclusions presented in the revised manuscript submitted by Dr. Ron Fouchier be communicated after appropriate further scientific review and revision. A final recommendation of these two revised manuscripts regarding the transmissibility of the H5N1 avian flu virus in ferrets will be made by the HHS Secretary and brought to the broader U.S. government.

In addition, in their final recommendations submitted to NIH yesterday, the NSABB also made two other thoughtful recommendations about future approaches to the challenges presented by oversight of dual use research. Those recommendations are being carefully reviewed and considered. HHS will continue to work with scientific and national security experts, the public, and the international community regarding the long term recommendations on dual use research.

I want to take this occasion to express my sincere gratitude to the NSABB members, who have worked tirelessly to study the issue carefully, hear directly from the experts, and weigh the benefits and risks of making the research data public.

Read the full NSABB recommendations.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health