Over the past eight years, cases of human infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses have raised international concern that we could be on the brink of a global influenza pandemic. Many of these human infections have proved fatal and if the viruses had been able to transmit efficiently from person to person, the effects would have been devastating. How can we arm ourselves against this pandemic threat when these viruses are too dangerous to use in conventional vaccine production? Recent technological developments (reverse genetics) have allowed us to manipulate the influenza virus genome so that we can construct safe, high-yielding vaccine strains. However, the transition of reverse-genetic technologies from the research laboratory to the manufacturing environment has presented new challenges for vaccine manufacturers as well as veterinary and public health authorities.