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View Diary: H5N1: A Teachable Moment, And An Open Letter (124 comments)

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  •  slightly more complicated (0+ / 0-)

    as the link above says:

    Most of the H5N1 samples his lab analyzes are provided by Asian scientists. Occasionally, they are given secretly if they come from a place where the virus has not been publicly reported.

    That is one additional issue -- if a country is kind enough to share data with us, do we have to at least respect their decision on when and how to make public health decisions like letting residents know a new variant is in the area?

    Any system that immediately disseminates gene sequences must be one that Asian nations -- China in particular -- do not think exploits them.

    That is a second additional issue -- if you lived in southeast Asia, how would you feel about doing research, sending your results to the US, where they may be used to produce a better vaccine that you will not yourself get access to?  Your only leverage is that you control the data.  What do you do?

    Even with both those additional considerations, I agree with you that the data should be shared as quickly as possible if not immediately (a separate argument can be made for the value of peer review, if it's speedy).  But it's not as simple as "vain narrow idiots."  These are actually pretty smart dedicated people working on it.

    •  I am sorry... (0+ / 0-)

      I am a scientist and I know a lot of vain and narrow scientists.  The system makes this happen. I think holding off sharing data on this important topic because you want to get a publication is somewhat vain and narrow.  Your name can go in the Genbank entry.  That ought to count for credit somewhere in the politics of academia.  

      The scientists themselves may be wanting to publish to keep their university jobs, which require publication.  Universities may be wanting them to keep this as intellectual property.  

      Vain and narrow- getting credit for your work from the national/international system.

      It isn't a huge discovery to purify a flu virus and get it sequenced- you need a lot of data and an analysis to get it published.  I guess if the sequences dribble out, the scientists are worried about someone else getting the credit.  Human Genome made a consortium and managed to give all those working on this huge project credit.  Maybe Bird Flu needs some push like this with international credit given.

      I guess I think it is too important to hold back on.

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Thu May 25, 2006 at 06:35:22 AM PDT

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      •  well, there's vain and then there's vain (0+ / 0-)

        I'm sorry you've had that experience... I've been pretty happy with the people in my department and other places I've been, for the most part... even the most vain ones (the ones with the sport cars) would not withhold information for personal benefit that would help the world medical community that much. Webster in particular, who that article quotes, is not exactly in a tenure fight -- he is one of the most well-respected eminences grises in his field.  So to say it is a case of publish or perish, is I think off the mark.

        There are real issues with exploiting genetic information from countries as I suppose you know.  Going to isolated populations where there is a genetic disease, studying them and identifying the relevant gene, and presumably using it to develop medicines that will not be offered to the group you studied.  (Often these are isolated native populations.)  It is the genome equivalent of buying Manhattan for a handful of beads.

        We're in agreement anyway about what the outcome should be -- we're just disagreeing on whether there is any complexity to the issue.

        •  Huh- (0+ / 0-)

          Most vaccines are made with huge government funding in USA or Europe.  Subsidies, one might say.  And insurance policies to reduce the risk of getting a rare side effect from the vaccine are another subsidy.

          WHO should be having their say and putting some funding into getting the vaccine out.

          I don't think the tropical diseases are being worked on enough, often because there is no way the folks in say, Indonesia, will be able to pay the US rate for the drugs/vaccines.  The big companies don't bother to do the research at all as a result.  Military and government work on these diseases do our "war fighters" health can be protected.  It is sort of like the anti GMO people complaining because no one is working on making more nutritious GMO food.  That is silly, because what is needed is MORE food that peole like to eat, not newly engineered, more nutritious food.  We need more knowlege and more treatments and more vaccines NOT just more affordable ones.  First, lets make them and let affordable happen next.

          If a drug is discovered it can be bootlegged or made generically too- and it will be.  We are talking about protecting ourselves with a vaccine after the bird flu moves in.   There is a strong strategy to give the vaccine to the local outbreaks in the Far East (or where-ever) or drugs for that matter, to nip the epidemic in the bud.  This attitude should be promoted- this is a global pandemic and needs a global response.  

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Thu May 25, 2006 at 09:42:36 AM PDT

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          •  The vanity I find... (0+ / 0-)

            is the who is smartest sort of vanity.  The competition for most publications being at Harvard not say University of South Dakota.  Sports cars seem trivial compared to the ways we compete against ourselves in science and keep score- all grant writing is competition.  And it is a competition where success is based on publications, and team work is harder to achieve.

            You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

            by murrayewv on Thu May 25, 2006 at 09:45:23 AM PDT

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