"The flu vaccine-making system that serves as the best available protection against a pandemic relies on millions of chicken eggs, takes nine months to produce each year's flu shots and has changed little since the 18th century. This creaky system poses a big problem if a new, deadly strain emerges once the annual and inflexible production process begins.
Several biotechnology companies are at work on a new and quicker way of making a flu vaccine they hope can replace one that requires people to be inoculated with the entire influenza virus. Their technique: extract just a few genes from the virus and inject it into people."
The New York Times Recipe for Destruction
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"AFTER a decade of painstaking research, federal and university scientists have reconstructed the 1918 influenza virus that killed 50 million people worldwide. Like the flu viruses now raising alarm bells in Asia, the 1918 virus was a bird flu that jumped directly to humans, the scientists reported. To shed light on how the virus evolved, the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database.
This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous."redux [10.06.05]
Nature The 1918 flu virus is resurrected
""There most definitely is reason for concern," says Richard Ebright, a bacteriologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, who serves on biosecurity panels. "Tumpey et al. have constructed, and provided procedures for others to construct, a virus that represents perhaps the most effective bioweapons agent now known."
"This would be extremely dangerous should it escape, and there is a long history of things escaping," says Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist and member of the Federation of American Scientists' Working Group on Biological Weapons. "What advantage is so much greater than that risk?" "New Scientist US scientists resurrect deadly 1918 flu
"“This work will help us make vaccines and antivirals against pandemic strains,” says Tumpey. It is unclear how, as the next pandemic is likely to be a different kind of flu.
But, says Taubenberger, the 1918 sequences are already helping in another way: they prove that a bird flu can go pandemic without combining with a human flu, and suggest which mutations it needs. The most likely pandemic candidate, H5N1 bird flu, already has some of the mutations. We should watch out for more, he warns."The New York Times Experts Unlock Clues to Spread of 1918 Flu Virus
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"It was the culmination of work that began a decade ago and involved fishing tiny fragments of the 1918 virus from snippets of lung tissue from two soldiers and an Alaskan woman who died in the 1918 pandemic. The soldiers' tissue had been saved in an Army pathology warehouse, and the woman had been buried in permanently frozen ground.
"This is huge, huge, huge," said John Oxford, a professor of virology at St. Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital who was not part of the research team. "It's a huge breakthrough to be able to put a searchlight on a virus that killed 50 million people. I can't think of anything bigger that's happened in virology for many years.""
“Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.”BIOINFORMATICS IN THE 21st CENTURY
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