Biodefense Professor Dr. Gregory Koblentz, of the George Mason School of Policy, Government and International Affairs, has published an article which appears in a special edition of Frontiers in Public Health. An excerpt of the article is available below with a link to the full article.
The challenge of dual-use research in the life sciences emerged vividly in 2011 as scientists and policy-makers debated what to do about article manuscripts that described how to modify the H5N1 avian influenza virus so that it could spread between mammals (1, 2). Since H5N1 emerged in Southeast Asia in 2003, it has sickened 667 people and caused 393 human deaths, as well as the deaths of millions of domestic and wild birds (3). The virus has not, however, demonstrated the ability to engage in sustained human-to-human transmission. If a new strain of H5N1 emerged with that capability, and it retained a high level of virulence, it could cause a global pandemic. The experiments by Yoshihiro Kawaoka from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ron Fouchier from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands not only demonstrated that mammalian transmission of the virus was possible but also provided information on how to construct such a virus.