The EpiFlu model is similar to the open-source software model, where programmers can use freely available pieces of code from the Web to build or improve their software. (A prime example of a successful open-source project is the Linux operating system.) Under the terms of EpiFlu access, all users agree to share their own data for free, give due credit when using others' data, and work collaboratively.
GISAID's new influenza database was developed independently of SIB and WHO by the Max Planck Institute for Informatics Department of Computational Biology and Applied Algorithmics, along with a3 systems, GmbH, a maker of content management system software. The database features information about nearly 30,000 isolates (or virus samples), including the contents of the original database (which SIB still manages) as well as new findings contributed to GISAID by the veterinary reference laboratories of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.
The GISAID database initially was created in part to address complaints by researchers in developing countries who say a previous data-sharing system run by WHO forced them to give up intellectual property rights to their virus samples when they sent them to WHO. The virus samples would then be used by private pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines that are awarded patents and sold at a profit at prices many poor nations cannot afford, the Associated Press reported in October 2008.
Another impetus for the GISAID information bank came in 2006 when Italian veterinarian and researcher Ilaria Capua revealed that in the case of bird flu, WHO was keeping some crucial information in a private database in Los Alamos, N.M., making it accessible to just 15 laboratories, the Associated Press reported in May 2008.