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UW-Madison researchers may continue controversial flu science | Local news

Controversial research at UW-Madison to make a deadly influenza virus more dangerous, stopped by the government in 2014, has been approved to resume. The work of campus researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka involves modifying bird flu viruses such as H5N1 so that they can spread between ferrets, an animal model for studying influenza in humans. The research aims to identify changes that can make the viruses spread easily among humans, "so that public health professionals can monitor these changes in nature and start storing vaccines and antiviral drugs to fight it," said Rebecca Moritz, senior vice president for selected agents &#821 1; or bacteria considered bioterrorism threats – said in a statement. Kawaoka conducts such studies at the University Research Park in a laboratory classified as biosafety level 3 agriculture, the highest level at UW Madison and a half notch at the top. level somewhere in BSL4. Kawaoka But opponents in Cluding many co-researchers, have said that research can cause influenza pandemic if an elevated virus escaped from the lab or replicated by terrorists. Some criticized the federal the government, which issued a moratorium on the studies in 2014, to silence g Recognize them again in recent months without publicly explaining why. The development was reported last month by Science magazine. Creating "potentially pandemic pathogens creates a risk – albeit a small one – infecting millions of people with a very dangerous virus," researchers Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University and Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins wrote last week in the Washington Post.…

Controversial research at UW-Madison to make a deadly influenza virus more dangerous, stopped by the government in 2014, has been approved to resume.

The work of campus researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka involves modifying bird flu viruses such as H5N1 so that they can spread between ferrets, an animal model for studying influenza in humans.

The research aims to identify changes that can make the viruses spread easily among humans, “so that public health professionals can monitor these changes in nature and start storing vaccines and antiviral drugs to fight it,” said Rebecca Moritz, senior vice president for selected agents &#821

1; or bacteria considered bioterrorism threats – said in a statement.

Kawaoka conducts such studies at the University Research Park in a laboratory classified as biosafety level 3 agriculture, the highest level at UW Madison and a half notch at the top. level somewhere in BSL4.

Kawaoka

But opponents in Cluding many co-researchers, have said that research can cause influenza pandemic if an elevated virus escaped from the lab or replicated by terrorists.

Some criticized the federal the government, which issued a moratorium on the studies in 2014, to silence g Recognize them again in recent months without publicly explaining why. The development was reported last month by Science magazine.

Creating “potentially pandemic pathogens creates a risk – albeit a small one – infecting millions of people with a very dangerous virus,” researchers Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University and Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins wrote last week in the Washington Post.

“For this type of research, there is no justification for keeping the risk and distribution negotiations secret,” they wrote.

Kawaoka and Dutch researcher Ron Fouchier caused an international stir in 2011 when they said they had separately altered the H5N1 virus so that it could spread in ferrets. In 2012, they agreed to an annual moratorium.

A few months after Kawaoka continued to work in 2014, the Obama administration demanded another stop. The message followed incidents of anthrax, influenza and smallpox at federal facilities.

In 2017, the government issued a framework through which grant auditors are expected to consider the benefits and risks of research, known as gain-of-function studies.

$ 600,000 contributions

In January, UW-Madison was informed by the Department of Health and Human Services that it could resume work, Moritz said. A $ 600,000 grant for research comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Fouchier was also told that he could re-start the studies according to Science and The New York Times.

The UW-Madison work has not yet begun again, and the university has not decided when it comes, Moritz said. “The resumption of research will depend on Dr Kawaoka’s research priorities and staff availability,” she said.

Moritz responded to Kawaoka for a request for information from the Wisconsin State Journal sent to both of them.

Reporting requirements for the new grant include Kawaoka immediately notifying federal officials if he creates a H5 strain that is very lethal and can spread between ferrets or resistant to antiviral drugs, Moritz said.

Insurance offered

Kawaoka Influenza Research Institute at University Research Park is a stand-alone building that has built-in layoffs and is monitored by laboratory staff, law enforcement and others, Moritz said.

Emergency plans have been developed to prevent the spread of viruses, she said. For example, local fire brigades have been told not to enter the facility and allow any fire to burn, and the first respondents cannot treat lab workers in a medical crisis unless they have been decontaminated.

“There is no such thing as a zero risk in research and no system is perfect,” says Moritz. “But we work continuously to create a safety and security culture and embrace systems that mitigate our risks and take us as close to zero as possible. “

Local resistance to Kawaoka’s research has been minimal. In 2014, Tom Jeffries, a member of the UW Madison’s institutional biosecurity committee, told that Kawaoka State would genetically modify its influenza viruses to minimize the risk to humans.

Without doing so is research “to increase the likelihood of having a pandemic rather than reduce the likelihood,” said Jeffries, a molecular biologist.

Kawaoka said disabling the viruses would make the findings less meaningful. “What you learn about the muted strains, but perhaps does not apply to the authentic viruses, “he said.

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