Virus Sharing, Genetic Sequencing, and Global Health Security
The WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework was a milestone global agreement designed to promote the international sharing of biological samples to develop vaccines, while that ensuring poorer countries would have access to those vaccines. Since the PIP Framework was negotiated, scientists have developed the capacity to use genetic sequencing data (GSD) to develop synthetic viruses rapidly for product development of life-saving technologies in a time-sensitive global emergency—threatening to unravel the Framework. Access to GSD may also have major implications for biosecurity, biosafety, and intellectual property (IP).
By rendering the physical transfer of viruses antiquated, GSD may also undermine the effectiveness of the PIP Framework itself, with disproportionate impacts on poorer countries. We examine the changes that need to be made to the PIP Framework to address the growing likelihood that GSD might be shared instead of physical virus samples. We also propose that the international community harness this opportunity to expand the scope of the PIP Framework beyond only influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
In light of non-influenza pandemic threats such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola, we call for an international agreement on the sharing of the benefits of research – such as vaccines and treatments – for other infectious diseases to ensure not only a more secure and healthy world, but also a more just world, for humanity.
Gostin, Lawrence O.; Phelan, Alexandra; Stoto, Michael A.; Kraemer, John D.; and Reddy, K. Srinath, "Virus Sharing, Genetic Sequencing, and Global Health Security" (2014). O'Neill Institute Papers. 69.