Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Major review of variola virus research, 1999-2010

In May 2007, the 60th World Health Assembly in resolution WHA60.1 (see link to resolution below) on smallpox eradication: destruction of variola virus stocks requested the WHO Director-General to undertake a major review in 2010 of the results of the research undertaken, currently under way, and the plans and requirements for further essential research for global public health purposes, taking into account the recommendations of the WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research, so that the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly may reach global consensus on the timing of the destruction of existing variola virus stocks.

Following the adoption of resolution WHA60.1 the Director-General commissioned the WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research to oversee a major review of variola virus research. At its meeting, in November 2008, the Advisory Committee decided to use the following approaches to preparing the major review of the research performed from 1999 to 2010. Both the published scientific literature and unpublished data concerning live variola virus research would be comprehensively reviewed by a group of scientists representing all areas of research and development on orthopoxviruses. The comprehensive review of research would in turn be externally reviewed by a further group of independent experts from outside the variola virus field.

A group of scientists endorsed by the Advisory Committee with specific expertise in variola virus or other orthopoxviruses wrote the document “the Scientific Review of Variola Virus Research, 1999-2010” under the supervision of the Committee.

The finalized scientific review was then considered by a panel of independent experts from outside the variola virus field. In July 2010 the Director-General nominated of experts to the Advisory Group of Independent Experts to review the Smallpox Programme and, between September and November 2010, the members of that Advisory Group met to finalize their report “Advisory Group of Independent Experts to review the Smallpox programme (AGIES): comments on the Scientific review of variola virus research, 1999 –2010”.

At its twelfth meeting, in November 2010, the Advisory Committee considered both the six chapters of the Scientific review of variola virus research, 1999–2010 and the finalized report with the comments of the Advisory Group of Independent Experts to review the Smallpox Programme. Both the background scientific review and the report of the Advisory Group of Independent Experts were revised in the light of the comments made by members of the Advisory Committee at its twelfth meeting.

The two reviews and the report of the 12th Advisory Committee meeting are now posted on the WHO web.

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