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The NIH Director

Statement of Drs. Collins and Fauci concerning intention to lift moratorium

January 25, 2013

One year ago, scientists in the H5N1 influenza research community announced that they would voluntarily suspend certain “gain-of-function” experiments involving highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses pending a broad international dialogue about the future direction of this research.

That dialogue — which has included experts in the life sciences, public health, biosecurity, biosafety, law, and science policy communities — has been highly productive, with numerous meetings and publications helping to clarify the most critical issues associated with this type of research.

Countries where this research is (or might be) conducted have had the opportunity to review their policies and parameters for funding, conducting, and communicating about this research. In this context, the H5N1 influenza research community has announced their intention and support for resuming their research in those countries with final guidelines in place.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has worked in a transparent and collaborative fashion to develop a framework for reviewing funding decisions regarding research that might increase mammalian transmission of HPAI H5N1 viruses by respiratory droplets. We anticipate that the final framework for HHS funding decisions regarding HPAI H5N1 gain-of-function experiments will be complete in the next several weeks. In the meantime, U.S.-funded researchers (both those working in the United States, including those in government laboratories, as well as those working overseas) have agreed not to resume these types of HPAI H5N1 gain-of-function experiments pending finalization of the HHS Framework.

Understanding how influenza viruses become human pandemic threats is vitally important to global health preparedness. We applaud the international H5N1 influenza research community for the spirit in which they instituted this extended “pause” on their work, which has provided time for thoughtful consideration of its implications.

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

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health

More Information

NIH Statement on H5N1, January 20, 2012

H5N1 virus: Transmission studies resume for avian flu External Web Site Policy , Nature, January 23, 2013

Work resumes on lethal flu strains External Web Site Policy , Nature, January 23, 2013

Transmission Studies Resume for Avian Flu External Web Site Policy , Science, January 23, 2013

microscopic image of many round and rod-shaped cells inside of larger enlongated cells.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in MDCK cells (seen in green). Credit: CDC/ Courtesy of Cynthia Goldsmith; Jacqueline Katz; Sherif R. Zaki

This page last reviewed on January 25, 2013

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