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Friday, January 20, 2012

UW-Madison bird flu scientist to stop research for 60 days

A UW-Madison scientist whose bird flu research has prompted an international debate over biosecurity, bioterrorism and censorship announced Friday he would stop the research for 60 days to allow for more discussion.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka and a Dutch scientist doing similar work said they would stop studies on bird flu viruses that can spread easily in the lab among ferrets — and thus, possibly humans.

"We realize organizations and governments around the world need time to find the best solutions for opportunities and challenges that stem from the work," they said in a statement released Friday by the journals Nature and Science.

It remains unclear when those journals might report the research findings by Kawaoka and Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, including Kawaoka's paper submitted to Nature.

A government advisory board last month asked Kawaoka and Fouchier to remove details from their reports to prevent terrorists from using the recipes for the viruses to create a biological weapon.

The National Institutes of Health said it is working with the journals to give select researchers access to the redacted information.

Some scientists have defended the research and decried what they call censorship, while others have said the studies threaten public safety. Read More