WHO’s draft code of conduct for open and timely sharing of pathogen genetic sequence data during outbreaks of infectious disease

Pathogen genetic sequence data (GSD) is an increasingly valuable source of information in understanding and controlling outbreaks of infectious disease. With the advent of next generation sequencing, the depth/extent of available information will expand further. A key concern in recent outbreaks has been variable timelines between the start of an outbreak and the public availability of the first and subsequent genetic sequences.

WHO strongly supports public access to sequence data to inform public health and research decision-making during outbreaks, the equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of such data, and the legitimate interests of data providers. WHO has consulted with many stakeholders and institutions working in the pathogen sequencing arena, including those who have been involved in applications to recent outbreaks. Based on these consultations, and on lessons learned from recent outbreaks as part of the data sharing workstream of the WHO R&D Blueprint, WHO is proposing elements of a code of conduct for GSD sharing in infectious disease outbreaks.

Through this code of conduct WHO seeks to contribute towards an enabling environment for sharing of pathogen GSD where equitable benefit sharing and the needs of data providers around the world can be addressed so that rapid international sharing of sequence data can occur consistently, in accord with IHR 2005, allowing public health authorities, product developers and researchers to collaborate more effectively from a position of mutual trust with respect for submitters’ rights to the information they provide.

The draft document is made available here for public consultation. Please send any comments on the attached comment form to bruniquelv@who.int, with your name and affiliation by COB 28 January 2019. Comments may be submitted by individuals or organizations. These comments may be made available at a later date, and by submitting comments you are giving permission for the comments to be made publicly available.

WHO will finalise the Code of Conduct, after taking into account comments received.