Ukr.Biochem.J. 2013; Volume 85, Issue 6, Nov-Dec, pp. 84-93


The creation of a contagious H5N1 influenza virus: implications for the education of life scientists

T. Novossiolova, M. Minehata, M. Dando

Bradford Disarmament Research Centre Division of Peace Studies School of Social and
International Studies University of Bradford UK

The paper contends that the ongoing controversy surrounding the creation of a contagious H5N1 influenza virus has already exposed the severe limitations of the possibility of preventing the hostile misuse of the life scien­ces by dint of oversight of proposals and publications. It further argues that in order to prevent the potential wholesale militarisation of the life sciences, it is essential that life scientists become aware of their responsibilities within the context of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and actively contribute their expertise to strengthening the biological weapons non-proliferation regime.

Keywords: , , , , ,


  1. WHO. [accessed 1/05/12] Cumulative Number of Confirmed Cases of Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Reported to WHO. 2012. Available at:
  2. Committee on Research Standards and Practices to Prevent the Destructive Application of Biotechnology. Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism. National Academies Press; Washington, D.C.: 2004.
  3. Meselson M. Averting the Hostile Exploitation of Biotechnology. The Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions Bulletin. 48:16–19.
  4. See reference 1, page .
  5. See reference 1, page .
  6. See reference 1, page .
  7. See reference 1, page .
  8. Committee on Advances in Technology and the Prevention of their Application to Next Generation Biowarfare Threats. Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences. National Academies Press; Washington, D.C.: 2006.
  9. See reference 1, page .
  10. Kennedy D. Better Never Than Late. Science. 2005; 310:195. PubMed, CrossRef
  11. Journal Editors and Authors Group. Uncensored Exchange of Scientific Results. PNAS. 2003; 100, 4:1464. PubMed
  12. Wellcome Trust. [accessed 1/05/12] Position Statement on Bioterrorism and Biomedical Research. SeeAvailable at:
  13. IAP. [accessed 1/05/12] Statement on Biosecurity. 2005. Available at:
  14. Biosecurity Working Group. A Code of Conduct for Biosecurity. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science; Amsterdam: 2007.
  15. Enserink M. [accessed 26/04/12] Scientists Brace for Media Storm around Controversial Flu Studies. ScienceInsider. Nov 23. 2011 Available at:
  16. Miller N. [accessed 26/04/12] Scientists Call for Curbs on Own Research on Deadly Bird Flu Virus. The Guardian. Feb 3. 2012 Available at:
  17. Roos R. [accessed 1/05/12] Live Debate Airs Major Divisions in H5N1 Research Battle. CIDRAP. Feb 3. 2012 Available at:
  18. See reference 14, page .
  19. Wimmer E. The Test-Tube Synthesis of a Chemical Called Polio. EMBO Reports. 2006; 7:S3–S9. PubMed, CrossRef
  20. Vogel K. M. Framing Biosecurity: an alternative to the biotech model? Science and Public Policy. 2008; 35(1):45-54. CrossRef
  21. Young E. [accessed 1/05/12] The Risks and Benefits of Publishing Mutant Flu Studies. Nature: News: Explainer. Mar 7. 2012 Available at–1.10138.
  22. [accessed 1/05/12] See Deliberating Over Danger. The Scientist. Apr 1. 2012 Available at:
  23. Mackenzie D. [accessed 26/04/12] Five Easy Mutations to Make Bird Flu a Lethal Pandemic. The New Scientist. Sep 26. 2011 Available at:
  24. See reference 22.
  25. Editorial. Facing up to Flu. Nature. 2012; 482:131. CrossRef
  26. [accessed 1/05/12] For the full text of the BTWC. see
  27. Seventh Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development. Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. Final Document, BWC/CONF. Vol. VII/7. United Nations; Geneva: 2012. p. 10.
  28. Herfst S. et al. The Future of Research and Publication on Altered H5N1 Viruses [advanced version]. Journal of Infectious Diseases. Mar 27.2012.
  29. Kawaoka Y. Transmission of an Influenza Virus Possession H5 hemmagglutinin via respiratory Droplets in Ferrets; Presentation given at International Symposium H5N1 Research: Biosafety, Biosecurity and Bioethics; London: The Royal Society; Apr 3–4. 2012.
  30. See reference 26.
  31. See reference 15.
  32. Vogel G. [accessed 1/05/12] Flu Experts – and One Ethicist – Debate Controversial H5N1 Papers. ScienceInsider. Feb 16. 2012 Available at:
  33. United States. [accessed 1/05/12] United States Government Policy for Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern. 2012. Available at:
  34. Branswell H. US Biosecurity Panel Clears Publication Path for Controversial Bird Flu Studies. The Canadian Press; Mar 30. 2012 Available at:
  35. Enserink M. Will Dutch Allow ‘Export’ of the Controversial Flu Study. Science. Apr 20.2012 336:285. [PubMed: 22517831] See also Enserink, M. [accessed 1/05/12] Dutch Government OK’s Publication of H5N1 Study. ScienceInsider. Apr 27. 2012 Available at:
  36. Maher B. [accessed 1/05/12] Bias Accusation Rattles US Biosecurity Board. Nature News. Apr 14. 2012 Available at:–1.10454.
  37. Ibid. See Letter from Michael Osterholm to Amy Patterson (NIH).
  38. Cohen J., Malakoff  D. [accessed 1/05/12] NSABB Members React to Request for Second Look at H5N1 Flu Studies. ScienceInsider. Mar 2. 2012 Available at:
  39. See reference 26.
  40. See reference 7.
  41. See reference 38.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Steinbruner J. et al. Controlling Dangerous Pathogens: A Prototype Protective Oversight System. CISS, University of Maryland; 2007.
  44. Rath J. Mutant Flu: Assessing Biosecurity Risks. Nature. Feb 23.2012 482:470. PubMed
  45. Fouchier RA, Herfst S, Osterhaus AD. Restricted data on influenza H5N1 virus transmission. Science. 2012 Feb 10;335(6069):662-3. PubMed, CrossRef
  46. Malakoff D. [accessed 1/05/12] Senior U.S. Lawmaker Leaps into H5N1 Flu Controversy. SeniorInsider. Mar 4. 2012 Available at:
  47. See reference 36.
  48. Pearson G. Prospects for Chemical and Biological Arms Control: The Web of Deterrence. Washington Quarterly. 1993 Apr;16(2):145-162. CrossRef
  49. Geissler E., van Courtland Moon J. E., editors. Biological and Toxin Weapons: Research, Development and Use from the Middle Ages to 1945. Oxford University Press; Oxford: 1999.
  50. Wheelis M., Rozsa L., Dando M. Deadly Cultures: Biological Weapons since 1945. Harvard University Press; Cambridge MA: 2006.
  51. [accessed 1/05/12] For full texts of the outcomes of BTWC Review Conferences. see
  52. Garfinkel M. et al. Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance. J Craig Venter Institute, CSIS, MIT; 2007.
  53. Australia. et al. Possible approaches to education and awareness-raising among life scientists. BWC/CONF.VII/WP20/ Rev.1. United Nations; Geneva: 2011.
  54. Report of the Meeting of State Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. BWC/ MSP/2008/5. United Nations; Geneva: Dec. 2008.
  55. See the Annex to reference 52.
  56. See, for example, Minehata M. et al. [accessed 2/05/12] Implementing Biosecurity Education: Approaches, Resources and Programmes [online version]. Science and Engineering Ethics. Nov 8. 2011 Available at:
  57. See reference 27, page.
  58. See NSABB. [accessed 1/05/12] Strategic Plan for Outreach and Education on Dual Use Research Issues. 2008. Available at:
  59. Committee on Science. Engineering and Public Policy. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct of Research. 3rd ed. National Academes Press; Washington DC: 2009.
  60. Johnson J. Teaching Ethics to Science Students: Challenges and a Strategy. In: Rappert, B., editor. Education and Ethics in the Life Sciences. Australian National University E Press; 2011.
  61. Huff C., Frey W. Moral Pedagogy and Practical Ethics. Sci Engineering Ethics. 2005; 11:389-408. PubMed, CrossRef
  62. Whitby S. Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention: Preserving Academic and Scientific Freedom [online]. Science, People and Politics. 2012; 3:2.
  63. See Dando M. Help or Harm? [online]. Chemistry World. 2012; 9:5. Available at:

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.