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The Options VI Conference in Toronto was also an opportunity to hold the first full Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Society for Influenza and other Respiratory Virus Diseases (isirv) over lunchtime on Tuesday, 19 June 2007.

isirv was launched back in September 2005 as the first global scientific society specific to flu and respiratory virus diseases. A particular impetus to its creation was also the desire to have an independent agency responsible for ensuring the continuation of Options conferences into the future.

Until Toronto, isirv was led by an Interim Board, chaired by Dr Geoffrey Schild, which nursed the fledgling society through its early challenges. At the AGM, he and colleagues Dr John Wood – Secretary, Prof. John Watson – Treasurer, Prof Lars Haaheim – website, and Dr Alan Hampson – journal – were able to report some considerable successes.

Most significant of all was that the society had already been able to partner the launch of its own peer-reviewed scientific journal, Influenza and other Respiratory Viruses. After discussions with a number of publishers, the isirv Board decided in early 2006 to go with Blackwell Publishing, and Dr Alan Hampson was appointed as Editor-in-Chief. A pilot edition was already available by autumn 2006 with the first full issue coming out in January 2007 and the second issue being ready for Toronto.

The aim is to publish every 2 months and authors are encouraged to submit articles for consideration at http://IRV.manuscriptcentral.com.

As part of the agreement with Blackwell, isirv is able to offer the journal as a benefit of membership without making any additional charge. So, if you want both to support an international flu scientific society and receive what will quickly become the primary journal for flu and other respiratory virus disease researchers and practitioners, join isirv at http://www.isirv.org.

Also important was that formal registration had been achieved. Early on it was decided to register in the United Kingdom for the legal and fiscal advantages associated with being a UK ‘charity’. This took a little longer than expected but by February 2007 isirv was officially a ‘company limited by guarantee’, a format designed in British law for the incorporation of not-for-profit agencies. Then on 16 April 2007, registration as a charity was also accorded by the Charity Commission. This already had a positive knock-on effect for the success of the Toronto conference as the Public Health Agency of Canada wanted to make a significant contribution to finances for the event but could only do so once charity registration was in place.

A major function for any scientific society is to provide opportunities for interaction between researchers and practitioners. The Board had developed working relations with the World Health Organization and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics from which arose collaboration in February 2007 on a Consultation on the diagnosis of H5N1 in humans. An invited group of specialists and companies came together in Geneva for what turned out to be a particularly fruitful sharing of information and ideas. A report will appear in this journal.

The Board had also determined that given the many providers of flu-related conferences, a particular role for isirv as a scientific society should be to focus on consensus meetings around critical issues where development can be helped and stimulated. The first of these is being planned for autumn 2008, focused on surveillance for H5N1.

Other basic underpinnings of any international society had also been put in place. The initial Interim Board had been expanded to include individuals from all continents, a website had been created, a newsletter for members published on several occasions, and much effort put into presenting isirv at many gatherings to encourage membership. The practical help in all this of MediTech Media and of the Consultant Organiser, Paul Sommerfeld, was acknowledged.

An update was also given on progress in identifying a host and venue for the next Options conference. This will take place in 2010, possibly in the southern Hemisphere, and three potential hosts had already offered themselves.

Lastly, the AGM was the end-point of the process for appointing a substantive Board. Members had been invited to put themselves forward and a list of 16, balancing geography and scientific interests, was adopted by the AGM*. There are eight based in Europe, four in North America and four on the Pacific Rim. The Chair, Dr Schild, warmly thanked members of the outgoing Interim Board and welcomed members of this new and first substantive Board. The new Board met shortly afterwards and elected as officers Dr Geoffrey Schild (Chair), Prof. John Watson (Deputy Chair), Dr Gavin Smith (Secretary) and Dr Jackie Katz (Treasurer).

Join isirv. Get the journal free. Go to http://www.isirv.org.

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*The full isirv Board comprises Dr Reinhard Glück, Dr Gregory Gray, Prof. Lars Haaheim, Dr Lance Jennings, Dr Jackie Katz, Prof. Anne Kelso, Dr Jon McCullers, Dr Jim Robertson, Dr Geoffrey Schild, Dr Gavin Smith, Dr Klaus Stöhr, Dr Masato Tashiro, Prof. Jonathan Van-Tam, Prof. John Watson, Dr John Wood and Dr Vidadi Yusibov.