We fully support Ilaria Capua in her call for avian-influenza researchers to release data to the public, rather than store them in restricted databases, as reported in your Editorial “Dreams of flu data” (Nature 440, 255–256; 200610.1038/440255b). Keeping sequences secret, whatever the motivation, slows down scientific progress and hinders efforts to protect public health. The influenza genome sequencing project (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/genomes/mscs/influenza.htm) has, in the past year, sequenced more than 1,000 complete genomes of human influenza and released them to GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nih.gov/Genbank). All sequences are deposited immediately they are completed, as agreed by all the centres contributing samples to this project. We believe unrestricted access to these data will jump-start research in many influenza labs across the globe, advancing vaccine design and enhancing our understanding of the virus.
We call on all other scientists who might be sitting on influenza-virus data, whether human or animal data, to follow this example. We also join Capua and Nature in calling for the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make future — and archived — data available to the scientific community. It is time for the community of influenza researchers to recognize, as the human genome sequencing project did ten years ago, that immediate public release of sequence data provides the greatest benefits to human health. The influenza virus does not respect national or other artificial boundaries, and we all need to work together to control it.