The scientist whose research team last year developed a new strain of the H5N1 virus that is easily passed between mammals has been granted an export license for his findings by the Dutch government, according to Science Insider.
The license allows Ron Fouchier, the virologist at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam who led the research team that developed the new strain, to send a revised version of his paper to the academic journal Science.
The license was granted after a closed-door meeting in The Hague in which "government officials discussed the risks and benefits of the research with an international group of scientists and security experts," according to Science Insider. The National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB) and the World Health Organization have both recommended publication of Fouchier's research.
"...[The] information in the revised manuscripts has direct applicability to ongoing and future influenza surveillance efforts and does not appear to enable direct misuse of the research in ways that would endanger public health or national security," NIH Director Francis Collins wrote in a statement on April 20.
Scientific American reports that Fouchier first presented his research in September 2011 at a conference in Malta, causing controversy when he sought publication of his paper. Debate centered on the question of whether scientific discourse should be censored if its subject posed a threat to public safety.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Thomas Inglesby at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center took issue with the research, calling it a "bad idea," and adding that "...it's a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it."
Despite criticism, Fouchier has remained adamant that his research should be published. According to Science Insider, he was even originally opposed to filing for an export license for the paper, believing that it was an inappropriate method of controlling the flow of scientific information.
The H5N1 virus has infected almost 600 people in 15 countries since 2003, and is known to kill about 60 percent of those that become infected, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
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