WHO group to tackle H5N1 virus-sharing dispute

first_imgNov 19, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A World Health Organization (WHO) working group will meet in Geneva over the next 4 days to try to solve an impasse over how countries share their H5N1 avian influenza virus samples, a disagreement that pits developing countries’ demand for affordable vaccines against the global need to monitor virus changes and develop pandemic vaccines.The rift over sharing of H5N1 samples began last December when Indonesia stopped sending H5N1 isolates to the WHO as a protest against the cost of commercial vaccines developed from the strains. Indonesia has said it owns the H5N1 samples found on its soil and intends to use them to develop a vaccine to protect its own population.In May Indonesia promised to resume sending H5N1 virus samples, but it has sent only a few. The government sent three samples in May, but they did not contain any live viruses, according to previous reports. Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, recently told CIDRAP News that the last samples Indonesia sent were from patients from Bali in August.Other countries, such as China and Vietnam, have been slow to share H5N1 samples or have encountered procedural difficulties in sending them out. However, Chinese agriculture official Niu Dun said the country recently sent 23 H5N1 samples to the WHO, according to a Nov 13 report from Xinhua, China’s state news agency.At the Geneva meeting, members of the WHO’s working group on virus-sharing will continue work on resolutions to ensure equitable H5N1 vaccine access that were outlined in May at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of WHO member countries. In August the same group, composed of representatives from 23 nations, met in Singapore, where they produced three documents—two that address H5N1 sample sharing and handling and one on a virus-sharing oversight mechanism, according to a previous CIDRAP News report.David Heymann, the WHO’s assistant director-general for communicable diseases, said in the earlier report that at the November meeting the group would finalize the documents, review and debate other issues, and forward a report to the WHO executive board. The documents and other agenda items are available on the working group’s Web site.Several news developments and publications relating to the virus-sharing issue have cropped up in the past few weeks in advance of the WHO meeting.Indonesia asks the WHO to return samplesIndonesia asked the WHO to return 58 of its H5N1 samples, according to a Nov 9 article in the Jakarta Post. Health minister Siti Fadilah Supari said Indonesia needed the virus samples back because it did not have a stockpile of seed viruses needed to develop its own vaccines, the report said. Supari claimed that international regulations require source countries to give up all their samples.Supari said Indonesia asked the WHO to return the viruses in August, but had not received a response, the Post report said. “We keep asking (the WHO) to return the samples because they belong to us. This is for the sake of our country’s sovereignty,” she told the newspaper.However, Hartl told CIDRAP News that the WHO responded to a letter from Supari, but he gave no details on the response.Organization emerges as Indonesia’s adviserMeanwhile, the Canadian Press revealed yesterday that the Third World Network (TWN), a nongovernmental organization that does advocacy work for developing countries, has been advising Indonesia in its dispute with the WHO over the H5N1 samples.The organization, based in Malaysia, issued a statement on Nov 15 charging that H5N1 viruses have been shared outside the WHO network with vaccine developers without the permission of the source countries, which it says violates WHO guidance issued in 2005.”As a result, several developing countries have slowed the sharing of viruses,” the TWN said.The statement urges developing countries to sign a document that it will present at the WHO intergovernmental meeting this week. The document claims that a “WHO designated laboratory,” along with other companies and institutions, is seeking patents on viruses, parts of viruses, and products, such as vaccines, made from the H5N1 viruses countries have shared.”These companies and institutions see this as an occasion to obtain patents and extra profits, and there has been a rapid increase in patenting activity related to avian influenza,” the TWN document states.The statement urges the WHO working group to establish an equitable “framework” for distributing vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical products in the event of a pandemic. It says the framework should recognize nations’ “sovereignty” over biological resources and should obligate developed countries and the private sector to share H5N1-related technology with developing countries and provide resources to build local capacities for producing vaccine and other pandemic-related medical supplies.Are viruses really biological resources?David Fidler, an international law professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, wrote about some of the legal aspects of the virus-sharing issue in the January early online issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.Fidler wrote that Indonesia has asserted that pathogenic virus samples are covered by the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty adopted in 1992 to guide national strategies for conserving biological diversity. However, influenza viruses aren’t the kind of biological resource that the convention was meant to protect, he maintained.”These viruses invaded Indonesia; their presence and spread owes nothing to the investment, nurturing, and utilization of the Indonesian government or people,” Fidler wrote. “Rather than seeking to conserve this virus, the strategy is to contain and ultimately eradicate it.”Indonesia’s virus-sharing protest has exposed ambiguity in the 2005 International Health Regulations, which took effect in July, he wrote. Though the new regulations don’t specifically require member countries to share samples of biological materials, they recognize a country’s duty to share samples for surveillance purposes, Fidler added.Europeans worry about fallout In a briefing released in advance of the WHO meeting, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the focus on the virus-sharing issue could be taking a serious toll on the global health community.Though the issues are fundamentally important to the global health community, “a lack of resolution could deflect many key staff from other important work, such as improving global pandemic preparedness,” the ECDC said.The current virus-sharing system, though not perfect, has worked extremely well over the past several years, particularly during the SARS crisis, the ECDC said. “Care needs to be taken to ensure that further regulation does not compromise function,” the report says, adding that a requirement for material transfer agreements or permission from source countries could seriously delay the development of new vaccines.See also:WHO intergovernmental meeting on pandemic influenza preparedness Web sitehttp://www.who.int/gb/pip/Aug 9 CIDRAP News story “WHO: Indonesia’s withholding of viruses endangers world”Third World Network Web sitehttp://www.twnside.org.sg/Nov 15 TWN statement on virus-sharingFidler DP. Influenza virus samples, international law, and global health diplomacy. Emerg Infect Dis 2008 Jan;14(1) [Full text]Oct 17 CIDRAP News story “WHO report explores patent issues concerning flu viruses”last_img read more

French pension reserve fund contributes to €5bn tech investment pledge

first_imgA spokeswoman for ERAFP, France’s €29.6bn additional pension fund for civil servants, said it was also part of the investor group but could not reveal how much it would invest.Investments would be progressively directed towards tech in the context of the relaxation of its investment restrictions. ERAFP was recently granted permission to invest more in unlisted assets and mutual funds.FRR noted that the €500m it is committing is on top of a €2bn allocation to French illiquid assets that was decided several years ago and was now already largely invested.Yves Chevalier, executive director at FRR, told IPE that the €500m would be split equally across the venture capital late stage funds and the funds for investment in global listed tech companies.“These aren’t investments that we’ll be making immediately,” he said. “We’ll give ourselves the time to define a strategy to implement it in 2020 and 2021.” 25 unicorns in France by 2025Macron said the government wanted to see 25 French unicorns created by 2025.According to a report prepared for France’s economy ministry earlier this year, France had the attributes to be a leader of “the fourth industrial revolution” –  defined by the World Economic Forum as a fusion of physical, biological and digital technologies – but a lack of late-stage funding was preventing French technology companies from growing. French venture capital funds were typically smaller than their main foreign rivals, it said.Initial public offerings, meanwhile, were fairly rare in France and when they did take place, did not generally raise enough funds to transform the company in question.The report, written mainly by Philippe Tibi, the former head of Swiss bank UBS, recommended that institutional investors be invited to support venture capital funds focussed on the late-stage segment and based in France. It also recommended encouraging the emergence of global listed tech equity funds and managed by teams primarily based in France.More specifically, according to the report, France needed to attract about €10bn and recruit 50 asset managers in three years’ time. Of this total, some €8bn would have to come from institutional investors, it said.Pour la réussite de notre écosystème numérique, j’ai fixé un objectif clair : pic.twitter.com/r6KCVy5Q83— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 17, 2019 Fonds de reserve pour les retraites (FRR), France’s €32.7bn pension reserve fund, has said it is committing to investing, by 2022, €500m in French late stage/growth funds and in global tech funds managed in France. FRR’s commitment was made in the context of a government drive to promote French start-ups and encourage so-called unicorns (privately held firms valued at more than $1bn [€900m]) to list in Paris.Last month, in connection with “France Digital Day”, Emmanuel Macron announced that French institutional investors had pledged to invest up to €5bn, split across two categories: €2bn for investments in late stage or growth companies – unlisted equities – and €3bn for global tech funds that invest in listed companies and are managed by France-based asset managers.FRR is one of the investors to have publicly disclosed its involvement.last_img read more

Head of Catholic Church in Scotland calls British plan to allow gay marriage ‘madness’

first_img Share FaithLifestyle Head of Catholic Church in Scotland calls British plan to allow gay marriage ‘madness’ by: – March 5, 2012 Tweet Share Sharing is caring!center_img 27 Views   no discussions Share The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland has fiercely attacked the British government’s plans to allow gay marriage, calling the proposals “madness.”In an article for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Scottish Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien accused the coalition government of trying to “redefine reality.”He called the plans “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right,” and said the government’s backing for marriage to include homosexual couples was “madness.”Prime Minister David Cameron has openly advocated gay marriage. Britain’s equalities minister will launch a consultation later this month on how to change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.While O’Brien conceded that arguing in favor of “traditional” marriage “risks one being labeled an intolerant bigot,” he said changing the definition of marriage would “deliberately” deprive children of the right to a mother or father and “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world.”O’Brien also cast doubt on government assurances that churches would not be forced to perform gay marriages: “Imagine for a moment that the government had decided to legalize slavery but assured us that ’no one will be forced to keep a slave’,” he said. “Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right?”Margot James, the first openly gay female lawmaker from the ruling Conservative party, criticized the Cardinal’s use of “apocalyptic language” and accused him of scaremongering.“I think it is a completely unacceptable way for a prelate to talk,” she told the BBC. “The Government is not trying to force Catholic churches to perform gay marriages at all. It is a purely civil matter.”The Home Office said Sunday that the government believes that “if a couple love each other” and want to commit to a life together they should “have the option of a civil marriage irrespective of their sexual orientation.”Cath Newslast_img read more