W. Ian Lipkin

professor, microbiologist, epidemiologist

W. Ian Lipkin (born November 18, 1952) is a virologist, epidemiologist, medical school professor, and physician-scientist, known as the scientific advisor for the 2011 movie Contagion.


  • Molecular platforms are rapidly evolving, with enhancements in sensitivity and throughput at a lower cost. Such improvements are facilitating the decentralization of technology such that studies now restricted to a few specialized laboratories will soon be feasible on a global scale. This technology transfer will, in turn, circumvent logistical and political issues relating to specimen transfer that can delay informed responses to outbreaks of acute disease.
  • The discussion of H5N1 influenza virus gain-of-function research has focused chiefly on its risk-to-benefit ratio. Another key component of risk is the level of containment employed. Work is more expensive and less efficient when pursued at biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) than at BSL-3 or at BSL-3 as modified for work with agricultural pathogens (BSL-3-Ag). However, here too a risk-to-benefit ratio analysis is applicable. BSL-4 procedures mandate daily inspection of facilities and equipment, monitoring of personnel for signs and symptoms of disease, and logs of dates and times that personnel, equipment, supplies, and samples enter and exit containment. These measures are not required at BSL-3 or BSL-3-Ag. Given the implications of inadvertent or deliberate release of high-threat pathogens with pandemic potential, it is imperative that the World Health Organization establish strict criteria for biocontainment that can be fairly applied in the developing world, as well as in more economically developed countries.
  • The trick with all this is, it’s an arms race … The virus is evading you. You want to make sure you keep up with it.

Quotes about Lipkin

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