Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today wrote to Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to find answers on the decision to reconsider the publication of the H5N1 bird flu virus study.
The National Science Advisory Board of Biosecurity (NSABB) initially recommended that journals refrain from publishing the details of the H5N1 research because it believed that the benefits were outweighed by the risk that terrorist groups could use it as a recipe to create a biological weapon. NIH asked that the NSABB reconvene to reexamine new versions of the two studies, and the NSABB reversed the decision and allowed for publication.
A leaked April 12, 2012 letter to NIH from Dr. Osterholm, who is a member of the NSABB, argues that the board’s final decision to publish the potentially dangerous research was based on a biased presentation of the evidence that was “more about how to get us out of this difficult situation” than hearing from disinterested experts in the field.
Sensenbrenner released his letter to NIH with this statement:
“It appears that the Administration was unprepared for the possibility that the NSABB might recommend against publication, and then, caught on its heels, sought to avoid the recommendation. If true, this response does little to prepare the United States government to better handle similar issues in the future. I am asking the NIH to clarify exactly where the new government policy guidelines came from and how they will be implemented.”
“The risks of misuse are not going away. The U.S. government needs to make sure we are better prepared to deal with potentially dangerous research.”