May 24, 2013
GENEVA (AP) — International efforts to combat a new pneumonia-like
virus that has now killed 22 people are being slowed by unclear rules
and competition for the potentially profitable rights to disease
samples, the head of the World Health Organization warned Thursday.
Dr. Margaret Chan, in a blunt warning to the U.N. agency's annual global
assembly, portrayed a previously little-known flap over who owns a
sample of the virus as a global game-changer that could put people's
lives at risk. The virus, which first emerged in Saudi Arabia where most
cases have arisen, is called MERS for Middle East respiratory syndrome.
"Please, I'm very strong on this point, and I want you to excuse me,"
she said. "Tell your scientists in your country, because you're the
boss. You're the national authority. Why would your scientists send
specimens out to other laboratories on a bilateral manner and allow
other people to take intellectual property rights on a new disease?"