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H5N1 research: biosafety, biosecurity and bioethics









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


An international scientific meeting to discuss the practice and policy of H5N1 research, with a programme of talks and discussions organised by Professor John Skehel FRS and Professor Simon Wain-Hobson.

The journals Nature and Science have recently received papers from two teams of researchers showing that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that could spread rapidly among a human population. Various national and international bodies have expressed concern that the safety and security of both the research worker and wider society needs to be considered before work of this kind is published in full. Set against this is the basic principle of openness in science: scientists should operate openly and publish their findings. This conference will discuss virus research, and the safety, security, and ethical aspects from the perspectives of researchers, publishers, policymakers and funders. 

Biographies of the organisers and speakers are available below and you can also download the programme (PDF). Video recordings of the presentations are available in the outline below.

Organised by the Royal Society in partnership with the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Foundation for Vaccine Research with support from the American Society for Microbiology, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fondation Mérieux, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Institut Pasteur, and the Society for General Microbiology.

Event organisers

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Schedule of talks

Session 1

6 talks Show detail Hide detail

Aerosol transmission of influenza A/H5N1 virus in ferrets

Avian and human H5N1 epidemiology and epizoonosis

Professor Robert Webster FRS

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Determinants of the pathogenicity of influenza viruses

Professor Hans-Dieter Klenk, Institut für Virologie

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Risk assessing animal influenza viruses for pandemic threat

Professor Malik Peiris FRS

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Transmission of an influenza virus possessing an H5 hemagglutinin via respiratory droplet in ferrets

Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, University of Wisconsin

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Welcome by Sir John Skehel FMedSci FRS and Professor Simon Wain-Hobson


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Session 2

3 talks Show detail Hide detail

NSABB policy, processes and recommendations on communicating H5N1 research

Professor Paul Keim, Regents Professor of Biology and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology, University of Northern Arizona

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Our common goal: protecting public health from avian flu

Dr Thomas Inglesby, Centre for Biosecurity of UPMC

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The ASM perspective on DURC

Professor Kenneth Berns, American Society for Microbiology

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Session 3

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Asilomar: reflections on an earlier episode in biosafety (videoconference)

Professor Paul Berg ForMemRS, Stanford University

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Four normative stances for the management of dual use technologies

Dr Ross Upshur, University of Toronto

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Scientific freedom: A two pipe problem with a dual remedy solution

Professor John Harris FMedSci, University of Manchester

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Session 4

8 talks Show detail Hide detail

A publishing and editing perspective

Dr Philip Campbell, Nature

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Cybersecurity, scientific data and public trust

Bruce Schneier

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Doomsday virus or no big deal; view from the newsroom

David Brown, Washington Post

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H5N1 – a funders perspective

Sir John Savill FMedSci, Medical Research Council

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H5N1 decisions: some important lessons learned

Dr Bruce Alberts, Science

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H5N1, the public, public health and public trust

Laurie Garrett, Global Health Council on Foreign Relations

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Response to H5N1 and H1N1, expérience of the 2009 pandemic

Sir Gordon Duff FMedSci, Sheffield University

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Vaccine options: industry perspective

Dr Jeffrey Almond FMedSci, Sanofi Pasteur

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Session 5

4 talks Show detail Hide detail


Professor Arthur Caplan, University of Pennsylvania

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Open floor discussion

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Closing remarks by the scientific organisers, Professor John Skehel FMedSci FRS and Professor Simon Wain-Hobson

Closing remarks

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Professor Peter Doherty FRS, The University of Melbourne

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H5N1 research: biosafety, biosecurity and bioethics The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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