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Risks and Benefits of Potential Pandemic Pathogen Creation

Marc Lipsitch, Harvard University, Boston

Speech at the Herrenhausen Symposium "Dual Use Research on Microbes: Biosafety, Biosecurity, Responsibility", 10.12.2014

Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD) at Harvard School of Public Health, talks about risks and benefits of potential pandemic pathogen creation. He focusses on enhancing transmissibility in mammalian model hosts of avian influenza viruses. Lipsitch analyses enhanced flu viruses with a nearly unique combination of hazardous properties and describes laboratory accidents leading to onward transmission. In his talk he also provides statistics about accidental infections in high security laboratories, the general risk of lab-associated infections, and the probability of pandemics caused by incidents during laboratory research. He also talks about scientific freedom, benefits from certain possibly dangerous experiments, and alternative ways to study and defeat diseases. Lipsitch has authored over 200 papers on the impact of medical and public health interventions on the spread and evolution of pathogens, and the consequences for human health. His research combines population genomics, epidemiology and mathematical modeling with molecular biology, immunology and animal experiments. He has advised the governments of the US, Mexico, and Canada and the World Health Organization and holds a BA in philosophy (Yale University) and a DPhil in zoology (Oxford University).

Photo: David Carreno Hansen for Volkswagen Foundation

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