Global Virus Network Meeting Strengthens Ties Among Top Virus Researchers

GVN’s programs facilitate international collaborations to address growing viral threats

May 19, 2015, Beijing, China–The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology research centers working together to prevent illness and death from viral disease, held its 7th meeting in partnership with Beijing University of Technology, a GVN Center of Excellence, in Beijing, China May 16-19,2015. During a time of mass migration, global climate change and threats of remerging viruses such as Ebola, the timing and location of the meeting is of significant importance. Experts shared information on varying viral threats, including those causing hemorrhagic fevers, hepatitis, HIV, measles, influenza, dengue and chikungunya, to name a few. GVN members also reviewed strategies at the center of the organization including the creation of specialized task forces and the launch of training programs to address growing viral threats.

“We are pleased to have served as the catalyst for important scientific discussions and the inspiration for new international collaborations.”

“Professor Yi Zeng and his colleagues hosted an impressive, scientific meeting,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, Co-Founder and Scientific Director of the GVN. “The meeting provided an opportunity for leading experts to share cutting-edge research and stimulate difficult questions in an effort to solve some of the field’s top basic science and clinical challenges.”

“It is fitting for Beijing University of Technology to host many of the world’s top medical virologists as the University celebrates 55 years of success,” said Professor Yi Zeng, GVN China Center of Excellence Director. “We are pleased to have served as the catalyst for important scientific discussions and the inspiration for new international collaborations.”

GVN Centers of Excellence reviewed the effectiveness of strategies implemented by the network including the creation of international task forces and the use of technology to tackle today’s viral challenges.

For example, in 2014, GVN launched the Chikungunya Task Force in response to outbreaks spreading from Africa and Southeast Asia to North and South America. At the conference, GVN Task Force leaders discussed the spread of chikungunya around the world, current treatments and top prospects for vaccine candidates. GVN utilizes information technology such as a globally accessible webinar series to educate business leaders and media, among others, on viral threats such as chikungunya.

One topic of priority concern in both China and the U.S. is the re-emergence of measles. Dr. Diane Griffin at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shared updates on how the virus causes disease and how the measles vaccine offers protection against other infectious diseases. The protective value of the vaccine clearly establishes that vaccination policies should be rigorously implemented.

“In addition to the scientific exchanges, the GVN Centers of Excellence recommitted themselves to ensuring that the world is prepared against future pandemics by ensuring the training of tomorrow’s virology leaders,” said Dr. Sharon Hrynkow, President of the GVN. The GVN will host an intensive training course in medical virology in July, and invited Centers to send their best and brightest students to participate in the course, which includes world leaders as lecturers.

“We look forward to welcoming tomorrow’s medical virology leaders from around the world to Baltimore in July,” said Dr. Hrynkow.

Global Virus Network Meeting Strengthens Ties Among Top Virus Researchers

Global Virus Network Meeting Strengthens Ties Among Top Virus Researchers

GVN’s programs facilitate international collaborations to address growing viral threats Beijing, China, May 19, 2015:

Dr.Qing Ma, GVN President, Dr. Robert Gallo, Dr. Yi Zeng, Dr. Diane Griffin

The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology
research centers working together to prevent illness and death from viral disease, held its 7th meeting in partnership with Beijing University of Technology, a GVN Center of Excellence, in Beijing, China May 16-19,2015. During a time of mass migration, global climate change and threats of remerging viruses such as Ebola, the timing and location of the meeting is of significant importance.  Experts shared information on varying viral threats, including those causing hemorrhagic fevers, hepatitis, HIV, measles, influenza, dengue and chikungunya, to name a few. GVN members also reviewed strategies at the center of the organization including the creation of specialized task forces and the launch of training programs to address growing viral threats.

“Professor Yi Zeng and his colleagues hosted an impressive, scientific meeting,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, Co-Founder and Scientific Director of the GVN. “The meeting provided an opportunity for leading experts to share cutting-edge research and stimulate difficult questions in an effort to solve some of the field’s top basic science and clinical challenges.”

“It is fitting for Beijing University of Technology to host many of the world’s top medical virologists as the University celebrates 55 years of success,” said Professor Yi Zeng, GVN China Center of Excellence Director. “We are pleased to have served as the catalyst for important scientific discussions and the inspiration for new international collaborations.”

GVN Centers of Excellence reviewed the effectiveness of strategies implemented by the network including the creation of international task forces and the use of technology to tackle today’s viral challenges.

For example, in 2014, GVN launched the Chikungunya Task Force in response to outbreaks spreading from Africa and Southeast Asia to North and South America. At the conference, GVN Task Force leaders discussed the spread of chikungunya around the world, current treatments and top prospects for vaccine candidates. GVN utilizes information technology such as a globally accessible webinar series to educate business leaders and media, among others, on viral threats such as chikungunya.

One topic of priority concern in both China and the U.S. is the re-emergence of measles. Dr. Diane Griffin at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shared updates on how the virus causes disease and how the measles vaccine offers protection against other infectious diseases. The protective value of the vaccine clearly establishes that vaccination policies should be rigorously implemented.

“In addition to the scientific exchanges, the GVN Centers of Excellence recommitted themselves to ensuring that the world is prepared against future pandemics by ensuring the training of tomorrow’s virology leaders, ” said the President of the GVN.  The GVN will host an intensive training course in medical virology in July, and invited Centers to send their best and brightest students to participate in the course, which includes world leaders as lecturers.

“We look forward to welcoming tomorrow’s medical virology leaders from around the world to Baltimore in July,” said GVN’s President.

Top Virologists Meet in China to Address Threats

Top Virologists of the Global Virus Network (GVN) Meet in China to Address Threats

The Addition of Two GVN Centers of Excellence Strengthen GVN’s Worldwide Reach

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, May 11, 2015: The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology research centers working together to prevent illness and death from viral disease, in partnership with Beijing University of Technology, a GVN Center of Excellence, will host its 7th meeting of top virologists May 16-19, 2015 in Beijing, China. The announcement was made today by Robert Gallo, MD, GVN Co-Founder and Scientific Director, Yi Zeng, MD, PhD, GVN China’s Center of Excellence Director and the GVN President. They also announced the addition of two new GVN Centers of Excellence including the University at Buffalo (UB), State University of New York (SUNY), USA and the Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA), Barcelona, Spain. Since its founding in 2011, GVN has grown to include 34 Centers of Excellence in 24 countries, comprising expertise in all classes of human viruses.

“I am pleased to join my friend and colleague, Professor Yi Zeng, in hosting this important meeting as these personal, face-to-face interactions among our colleagues are integral to sharing information and inspiring international collaborations that otherwise might not exist,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence. “China has been involved with GVN from the very inception, and Professor Yi Zeng has been and continues to be a valued and honored GVN leader as well as a member of the Scientific Leadership Board, which reviews all prospective Centers.“

“China is honored to host this meeting of the GVN,” said Professor Yi Zeng, Honorary Dean at the College of Life Sciences and Bioengineering at Beijing University of Technology and Chief Scientist and Professor at the Institute of Viral Diseases Control and Prevention China, a GVN Center of Excellence. “We are committed to working closely with our colleagues at the GVN and strengthening ties with the internationally renowned scholars who comprise the network.”

Members of the GVN will exchange ideas on viruses including HPV and Esophageal Carcinoma, Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, emerging viruses, Measles, MERS, Dengue, Chikungunya, HTLV, Influenza, Hemorrhagic Fever viruses – including Ebola, among other viruses, and viral diagnostics. Other prominent virologists participating in the meeting include Dianne Griffin, MD, PhD of GVN’s Center of Excellence at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, who is a renowned measles expert and Ab Osterhaus, DVM, PhD, of GVN’s Center of Excellence at University of Veterinary Medicine, Germany, who is a renowned coronavirus expert (SARS, MERS). They will discuss many viral challenges China shares with other nations, including the rise of measles and the threat of coronaviruses.

“We are honored to be hosted in China, where the tradition of supporting virology in China is strong and the tradition of international cooperation stronger still,” added GVN’s President.   ”This meeting in China paves the way for onward collaborations and strengthening of our global safety net against viral disease threats. It is the first time that the GVN has met outside of the U.S. or Europe, and we are delighted to be in Asia.”

The GVN is an essential and critical defense against viral disease. It is a coalition comprised of world renowned virologists, all working to advance knowledge about how viruses cause disease, to develop drugs and vaccines to prevent illness and death, and to train the next generation of virus researchers. GVN is the only institution in the world that has expertise in all classes of human viruses.

 

GVN Scientist Publishes Ebola – Marburg Virus Connection

Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire’s Lab of The Scripps Research Institute recently published in Cell the discovery of an antibody that binds to both the  Marburg and Ebola virus. The ability of an antibody to bind to both of these  deadly viruses is a major step forward in the potential treatment of them. Article

Confronting Ebola at its Origins: GVN Member, The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Deploys their Mobile Diagnostic Laboratory to Sierra Leone

The 2014/15 outbreak of Ebola virus disease is the largest ever reported of this deadly, highly infectious, hemorrhagic disease since its initial discovery in humans in 1976. The current outbreak was first recognized in March, 2014 in Guinea and has since crossed international boundaries into Sierra Leone and Liberia where case numbers have now surpassed those recorded in the country of origin. Due to international travel of infected individuals, both medical professionals and non-professionals, the virus has also been introduced and caused smaller outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria, Spain and the United States. A worldwide response was launched. Like the infectious agent, this approach crosses interdisciplinary, geographical, cultural and socio-political boundaries and includes research, professional and public education, clinical care and respectful, safe disposition of the remains of those who died from the illness. In this paper, we aim to reduce fears of the unknown and encourage continued efforts to conquer the epidemic by describing the nature of the infectious agent, by providing a brief overview of its history, scope, and impact.

Prof. dr hab. Janusz T. Paweska & Dr. Petrus Jansen van Vuren Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Disease of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

On November 5, GVN and its partner, ASTMH, convened a special symposium on “The Global Spread of Chikungunya: Epidemiology, Evolution, Pathogenesis and Global Needs” at the annual ASTMH meeting in New Orleans.  All three of GVN’s Task Force Chairs on Chikungunya spoke at the session, which was organized by Dr. Scott Weaver of UTMB, one of the co-chairs.  Other co-chairs are Dr. Marc Lecuit, Pasteur Institute, France, and Dr. John Fazakerley, Pirbright Institute, UK.  Click here for the full agenda.

June 18, 2014 The view from Estonia

June 18, 2014 The view from Estonia by GVN’s President. Here in the homeland of Skype, Mobile ID, online voting and X-Road data exchanges, it did not take long for more than a hundred local and foreign virologists to merge seamlessly into the first GVN Scandinavian-Baltic Conference. The June 10-13 conference included scientists and physicians from Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the U.S., France, and Ukraine. This first Baltic Region conference was organized by Professor Andres Merits from Estonia’s University of Tartu—a GVN-affiliated Center of Excellence—and by Professor Anders Vahlne from Sweden’s Karolinksa Institute and the director of the Scandinavia-Baltic GVN Center of Excellence. In addition, the conference was supported by several other groups including, the European Union, the Harry and Reba Huge Foundation. Science and technology may have been the reason for holding a conference of virologists, but diplomacy also played a role in bringing together so many strangers in Tallinn. In this case, the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Chever Voltmer, hosted a welcome reception for the conferees. In her welcoming remarks, DCM Voltmer reminded us of the importance of GVN’s international work, particularly as infectious diseases and their vectors move invisibly across borders and through nations. She congratulated us for working to bring together so many regional experts, as well as for including a delegation from Ukraine. In thanking the DCM for her generosity in welcoming our group, I noted how important it is for scientists to know each other’s scientific work, as well as each other as people, recognizing that trust and understanding of one’s colleagues can be critical to progress, particularly during times of crisis and confusion. The US embassy’s reception helped pave the way for the substantive scientific exchanges that followed. The conference was held at the Laulasmaa Resort, 30 minutes outside of Tallinn in an idyllic setting on the chilly Baltic Sea. The formal part of the program was given over to presentations from senior and junior scientists on viral challenges facing the Baltic region: HIV, Chikungunya, Human Papilloma Virus, Hepatitis B and C, among them. Novel vaccine technologies, new approaches to drug therapies, and epidemiological programs were featured. What struck me as a great feature of the conference was the number of post-doctoral fellows and PhD students in the mix. Interactions between the scientific veterans and the class of future virology leaders were critical to the chemistry and success of the conference. “Transformative,” was how one PhD student put it to me, after noting this was the first scientific conference she had been able to attend. One could see the optimism for future work and the hope to be engaged for the long-term. Members of the Ukrainian delegation were warmly welcomed participants at this Baltic conference. A senior Ukrainian delegate said it was his wish that GVN could help reduce the distance between Ukrainian virologists and colleagues in the Baltics and Scandinavia. Clearly, there was great interest on the part of conference participants to collaborate with regional and global colleagues. We take note! As these virologists left to return to their labs and wards, the GVN will start to work on how to continue dialogue, create lasting regional collaborations, and support the many excellent ideas which surfaced during the conference, both scientifically and administratively. It is my hope that we will be able to convene again, and to do so having supported a number of activities in the interim, each aimed at bolstering science and improving career paths for our next generation of virologists.

MEDIA ADVISORY

Who: The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) and St. George’s University (SGU) in partnership with the Global Virus Network (GVN)

  • Dr. Robert Gallo, Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and Scientific Director, GVN
  • Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence
  • The Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwen, Minister of Health, Grenada
  • Calum N.L. Macpherson, Vice President and Founding Director, WINDREF
  • Dr.  Charles R. Modica, Chancellor, SGU

What: Virology Workshop for U.S. and Caribbean Journalists

When: 7:30 am, Thursday January 30, 2014 – 12:00 pm, Saturday February 1, 2014

Where: St. George’s University (SGU)

Contact: For more info, please contact Nora Grannell at ngrannell@gvn.org or 1 410-706-1966

Conference Overview:

The Viral Workshop for Journalists will provide reporters from varying U.S. and Caribbean media outlets an opportunity to learn firsthand about the nature of viruses, their spread, and virus treatments and vaccinations.  The workshop aims to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehensible level that can be utilized when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses.  The workshop will feature expert virologists from around the world, including world renowned virologist Dr. Robert Gallo, most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV and his development of the blood test.  Dr. Gallo also discovered the first known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean including Grenada.  Local officials including the Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwin, Minister of Health will open the meeting, and SGU students will engage with reporters in the laboratory, among other activities.

Other leading participants include Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonian GVN Center of Excellence; Dr. Calum MacPherson, Vice Provost at St. George’s University and Vice President of WINDREF; Dr. Donald Jungkind, Professor of Microbiology at St. George’s University Medical School; and Dr. Charles Modica, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chancellor of St. George’s University.

Prominent Virologist Stanley Plotkin Joins GVN as Senior Advisor

Baltimore, MD: January 14, 2014 ;The Global Virus Network (GVN) is honored to have Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and consultant to all of the major vaccine manufacturers, serve as a senior advisor. Dr. Plotkin is world renowned for his development of the rubella vaccine- now in standard use throughout the world, and has worked extensively on the development and application of other vaccines including polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus and cytomegalovirus.

 
“I am happy to join such a distinguished group of virologists,” said Dr. Plotkin.
 
“Stan is one of the most experienced and wisest of virologists who will be invaluable to the GVN objectives,” said GVN co-founder and scientific director Dr. Robert Gallo.
 
“Stan’s encyclopedic knowledge of viruses and their modes of transmission will be of enormous help in guiding the Scientific Leadership Board of GVN when decisions have to be made to limit the expansion of existing epidemics or curb the outbreak of newly emerging viruses,” said fellow GVN co-founder, Dr. Reinhard Kurth, Chairman of the Foundation Council, Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany.
 

A New Pathogen in Paradise

A New Pathogen in Paradise

A new virus with a strange name recently emerged in the popular press and the public consciousness. On 19 December 2013, two confirmed cases of locally acquired chikungunyavirus (CHIK) were reported on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. The World Health Organization announced that this is the first time local transmission of this virus has been detected in the Americas.

 

CHIK is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos such as Aedesaegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito).

 

In human infections, CHIK can cause a debilitating illness often characterized by headache, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, and joint pain. It is rarely fatal, but it can lead to chronic, debilitating joint pain. The virus was discovered in 1953 in Tanzania during an epidemic of dengue-like illness, and acquired its name from a local phrase that means ‘that which bends up.’ In other words, causes pain.

 

Since its discovery, the virus has been responsible for outbreaks in Kenya (2004), the French island of Reunion off East Africa (2005-06), and in other locations.  The Reunion outbreak resulted in 244,000 cases and 203 deaths.  A 2006 outbreak in India involved more than a million cases.  Travelers returning from Africa and Réunion also introduced the virus into parts of Europe.

Subsequent outbreaks in India likely were driven by the virus’ ability to adapt to the more aggressive tiger mosquito, and to acquire mutations that shortened the period of viral replication in the mosquito and thereby increased the viral load.  The end result was a fast-moving epidemic.

“These observations point to one important fact that the more the efficiency with which we contain the primary outbreak of this disease, the better we are able to prevent adaptive mutations in the virus and the emergence of severe infections and explosive epidemics,” notes a member of the Global Virus Network (GVN), Dr. E. Sreekumar, at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala, India.

There is no specific antiviral treatment available forchikungunya fever. Treatment is symptomatic and includes rest, fluids, and medicines to relieve symptoms of fever and aching such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol.(Aspirin should be avoided.)

 

Various research groups in the U.S. and Europe are working on a vaccine.  Recently, a group in the Netherlands reported on the production of a synthetic CHIK vaccine* that protected mice from infection and inflammation caused by the Réunion Island CHIK virus strain.

 

Like other viruses before it, CHIK has moved west into the Americas with the aid of tourists and international trade.  An effective vaccine would be an important tool in controlling this emerging virus.

* Effective Chikungunya Virus-like Particle Vaccine Produced in Insect Cells. Stefan W. Metz, Joy Gardner, CorinneGeertsema, Thuy T. Le, Lucas Goh, Just M. Vlak, AndreasSuhrbier, Gorben P. Pijlman. March 14, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002124.