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Concerns Resolved

The new H7N9 avian flu virus was quickly sequenced, shared, and published, but not without some concerns regarding credit, Nature reports. A team from Beijing's Chinese National Influenza Center uploaded the genetic sequence of the virus, determined from the first three patients, on March 31st to Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data database, and it submitted its H7N9 paper to the New England Journal of Medicine on April 5th.

At the same time, Nature says, Novartis and the J. Craig Venter Institute were working on using those uploaded sequences to develop a vaccine in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but not with the Chinese National Influenza Center team — something the CNIC team thought was not in the cooperative spirit of GISAID. Novartis says it looked into working with the Chinese CDC, which includes the CNIC, Nature notes.

GISAID was able to help address these concerns and open lines of communication between thr groups, Nature adds. The Chinese team and the vaccine developers are now working together.

The CNIC team was also worried about being scooped by a Tokyo group that analyzed the viral data. That group's Eurosurveillance paper was scheduled to come out before Chinese team's NEJM article, so to avoid the issue of scooping the Chinese team, the publication of the Eurosurveillance paper was delayed. An author of the Eurosurveillance paper adds that the delay had no effect on public health as the group shared its analyses with the World Health Organization's network of flu researchers earlier in the month.