GISAID

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The Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), is a global consortium of scientists who actively promote the international sharing of all influenza type virus sequences, related clinical and epidemiological data associated with human isolates, and geographic and species-specific data associated with avian and other animal isolates.

GISAID is providing a publicly accessible platform including the EpiFlu database that is free of charge. The H1N1 influenza strain which caused the 2009 flu pandemic, although not an avian influenza, is explicitly included.

GISAID came to life on 2006-08-24 as the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data by a group of leading medical researchers from around the world to improve the sharing of influenza data and was announced in a letter published in the journal Nature[1] signed by over 70 leading scientists including seven Nobel laureates.

Its users are requested to register and agree that they share their own data, credit the use of others' data, analyze findings jointly and publish results collaboratively, and maintain common access to technology derived from the data so that it can be used not only for research but for development of products such as diagnostics and vaccines. The data will be available immediately to all who sign on to use the database under the terms that they will acknowledge the source of the data and endeavor to work with those that provide the data.

Goals[edit]

The Initiative has earned widespread international support around the goal of better understanding the spread and evolution of the influenza virus, its transmissibility and pathogenicity. With this goal in mind, the Initiative determined that scientists from different fields of expertise needed full access to comprehensive genetic sequencing, clinical and epidemiological data, as well as analysis from both human and animal isolates in order to better understand the virus and its potential mutation to a pandemic pathogen. The Initiative aims to provide developing countries with better access to scientific research and the development of potential pandemic flu vaccines to lessen its dependence on foreign aid. It is already hailed as a model for future initiatives.

Greater transparency and more timely sharing of sequence data has been a goal of many researchers and stakeholders alike. The GISAID platform spans national borders and scientific disciplines, with leaders in the fields of veterinary medicine, human medicine, bioinformatics, epidemiology and intellectual property. This cross-disciplinary effort provides new means to communicate and share information, as each discipline has distinct interests but also shares similar goals. The Initiative came together to work around restrictions, which have previously prevented specifically the sharing of information on avian influenza (a.k.a. bird flu), with the hope that more shared information will help researchers understand how viruses spread, evolve, and potentially become pandemic, anticipating that its EpiFlu database will be a substantial improvement over previously available databases, by promoting influenza data to becoming available more quickly and to a wider audience than has been possible in the past.

History[edit]

The Foundation was initially funded by Peter Bogner—a strategic advisor and international broadcasting executive—who serves as its founder and principal facilitator. Bogner has been directing the build-up of this platform by bringing together the world's leading scientists and stakeholders who are actively committed to accelerating understanding of this potential human pandemic by rapidly sharing scientific data and results.

On 2006-01-28 Bogner met with US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was told about the US Government's preparedness concept on dealing with the potential of a flu pandemic. Concerns about a pandemic scenario heightened.

Since the inception of the Initiative, Bogner announced his plans to transition out of a day-to-day role as the Chief Executive of The Bogner Organization, to allow him to devote more time to working with the GISAID Foundation as its director.

On 2006-11-20, the Initiative received the endorsement of both The Royal Society and Academy of Medical Sciences.[2]

On 2006-12-19, GISAID signed a cooperation agreement with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, which leads a Swiss consortium to manage the GISAID Database on influenza virus strains. Under this agreement, the Geneva based institute is to provide services for the secure storage and analysis of genetic, epidemiological and clinical data.

On 2007-03-28, Siti Fadilah, Indonesia’s Minister of Health, announced the launch of the GISAID Database following a high-level WHO meeting in Jakarta on Responsible Practices for Sharing Avian Influenza Viruses.[3]

On 2007-04-16, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences reaffirmed its endorsement of GISAID stating it shares the same ideals regarding free exchange and responsible sharing of information of avian influenza and emerging infectious diseases.

On 2007-04-17, the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data for “it promotes one of the key values in scientific research: collaboration and integration between scientists in order to achieve improved outcomes for the benefit of human and animal health.”[4]

On 2010-04-20, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany announced during the IMCAPI ministerial conference in Hanoi that its Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection BMELV signed a cooperation agreement[5] with GISAID to become the long-term host of its platform and EpiFlu database.

Foundation[edit]

The GISAID Foundation is a nonprofit, non-stock corporation incorporated in the District of Columbia, USA, organized and operated exclusively for charitable, scientific and educational purposes within the meaning of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

The Foundation[6] provides for several organizational bodies that operate independently of each other, aimed to provide for a fair and transparent, as well as a verifiable and unbiased mechanism in place to govern and to take measures to guard against bias in decision-making. The Foundation’s Board of Trustees, charged with overseeing the business affairs, is expected to minimize potential conflicts of interest concerning the funding sources; its Advisory Board made up of senior scientist is charged to provide resolution concerning any breach in access to the platform or its data; its Scientific Advisory Council is responsible for providing scientific oversight of the initiative; its Database Technical Committee represents the user community and interacts with GISAID’s database developer team to improve in the functional capabilities of the EpiFlu Database.

Intellectual property[edit]

A difficulty that GISAID's Data Access Agreement attempts to address is that many researchers fear sharing of influenza sequence data could facilitate its misappropriation through intellectual property claims by the vaccine industry and others, hindering access to vaccines and other items in developing countries, either through high costs or by preventing technology transfer. While most public interest experts agree with GISAID that influenza sequence data should be made public, and this is the subject of agreement by many researchers, some provide the information only after filing patent claims while others have said that access to it should be only on the condition that no patents or other intellectual property claims are filed. GISAID's Data Access Agreement addresses this directly to promote sharing data. GISAID's procedures additionally suggest that those who access the EpiFlu database consult the countries of origin of genetic sequences and the researchers who discovered the sequences.

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