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.

Gallo reflects on 30 years in HIV research

Gallo reflects on 30 years in HIV research

 

Dan Rodricks, of the Baltimore Sun in January 4 th interview of Dr. Robert Gallo, and discusses the current advances leading to a “functional cure” .

Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak in St. Martin

Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak in St. Martin

December 20, 2013, Baltimore, MD: St. Martin, in the Caribbean, is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to experience a Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak. Global Virus Network (GVN) member of the Sweden-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence and CHIKV specialist, Andres Merits, PhD says once we know the genotype, we will have a better estimate of the potential of the virus to spread.  Dr. Merits, Professor of Applied Virology, Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Estonia, also noted, “Clinicians in the region of the Caribbean must be on high alert as CHIKV is often mistaken for Dengue fever or even malaria.  Once we know the genotype, we will know more about the efficiency of mosquito transmission, and public health officials can begin to take prevention measures to contain the outbreak.”  Such measures include aggressive mosquito control techniques, whereas travel restrictions are more likely to be relatively inefficient.  Dr. Merits said, “I am reasonably optimistic this outbreak will not be widespread.  However, this new outbreak is a stark reminder of why medical virologists worldwide must be prepared to share information and expertise quickly, and with the goal of safeguarding the health of people everywhere.  We do not yet have drug therapies for CHIKV, let alone a vaccine, but scientists are close and can develop these cures if governments and the public and private sector support them.”

Gallo Speaks to Dan Rodricks

Dr. Gallo spoke about the beginning of AIDS, the need for the next generation of trained virologists, the creation of the Global Virus Network, viruses in general, IHV’s HIV preventive vaccine candidate, a PEPFAR for the U.S., among other important issues.  At the end, the reporter thanks Gallo and his team for choosing the University of Maryland. If you get a moment, please tune in here: http://programs.wypr.org/podcast/dr-robert-gallo-thurs-december-19-12-1-pm

Distinguished Attorney Timothy C. Moynahan Named Chairman of the Global Virus Network (Gvn) Board of Directors

DISTINGUISHED ATTORNEY TIMOTHY C. MOYNAHAN NAMED CHAIRMAN OF THE GLOBAL VIRUS NETWORK (GVN) BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Will Forge Partnerships With Multinational Corporations & Private Benefactors To Mitigate The Threat & Financial Impact Of Pandemic Viral Diseases

Baltimore, MD (December 17, 2013) – The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s foremost medical virology research centers working to prevent illness and death from pandemic viruses, today announced that Timothy C. Moynahan, Esq., has been elected as the 2014 Chairman of the Board of Directors.  The announcement was made by Robert C. Gallo, MD, co-founder of the GVN, Chair of GVN’s Scientific Leadership Board, and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.  Dr. Gallo was joined in this announcement by GVN co-founders Reinhard Kurth, MD, Chairman of the Foundation Council, Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany and William Hall, MD, PhD, Vice Chair of the GVN Board of Directors, and Director of the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases the University College Dublin in Ireland.  Mr. Moynahan takes on the Chairman’s role from immediate past Chairman G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company.

“Mr. Moynahan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise on international business and public-private sector partnerships to the GVN,” said Dr. Gallo, most notably known for his co-discovery of HIV and development of the blood test. “We are confident that Mr. Moynahan will lead the Board with vision  and passion for GVN’s critical mission of safeguarding life from potentially pandemic viral disease,” he added.   Mr. Moynahan served as the first Chairman of the GVN Board of Directors at the time of the GVN’s establishment in 2011.  “Tim’s insights into GVN as a founding Board member and as its inaugural Chairman position him perfectly to lead us successfully into the future,” continued Dr. Gallo.

One of Mr. Moynahan’s primary objectives is to develop partnerships with relevant multinational corporations and private benefactors in order to provide the substantial funding required to address the serious threat and exorbitant financial impact posed by potentially pandemic viral disease threatening public health.  “I am honored to serve as GVN’s Chairman once again and work alongside my dedicated and distinguished colleagues,” said Mr. Moynahan.  “Viruses continue to take tragic tolls on humanity in many ways, with millions of lives lost each year and staggering costs to the global economy.  The current flu season is a stark reminder:  According to the World Health Organization, seasonal flu in the United States alone results in 40,000 deaths and $87.1 billion in economic losses, both directly in terms of health care, and indirectly through work days lost and other factors.   One of my most important mandates is to raise awareness of the staggering impact of viruses on lives, commerce and businesses,” he added.

Mr. Moynahan, a preeminent litigation attorney, is the founder of The Moynahan Law Firm, one of Connecticut’s most respected law firms.   In addition to his role as Chairman of the Board of the Global Virus Network, Mr. Moynahan has been elected to the board of directors of numerous corporations and charitable organizations, including the Post University MBA Advisory Council, the Advisory Board of the Institute of Human Virology, the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR) and President of the Connecticut Chapter of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the United States.

Global Virus Network Warns U.S. of Growing Measles Threat

Oct. 1, 2013 17:39 UTC

Global Virus Network Warns U.S. of Growing Measles Threat

BALTIMORE–(BUSINESS WIRE)– The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s leading medical virology research centers working to prevent illness and death from viral disease, today warned the U.S. of a startling rise in measles cases particularly in the last couple of years. Measles were eliminated in the U.S. by 2000, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the first eight months of 2013 the U.S. saw nearly 160 cases of measles – which many believe will rise as a growing number of parents choose not to vaccinate their children in which state law does not otherwise apply.

“Measles is a dangerous disease. We lose sight of the dangers because currently the disease is rare in the US and usually imported from other countries where measles is more prevalent,” explains Dr. Diane Griffin, GVN Center of Excellence Director and Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair, W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Griffin continued, “While most cases resolve with no complications in 10-14 days, measles can cause diarrhea and ear infections, as well as other serious side effects – seizures, pneumonia and encephalitis, which can each lead to death. The most vulnerable in the US are those under the age of 12 to 15 months, when the measles vaccine is usually given. Infants are therefore at the highest risk. Those who do not vaccinate their own children place infants of other families at risk as well as their own children.”

As experts and leading researchers on all viral diseases, GVN Centers of Excellence are working to improve the measles vaccine and better understand the complications of measles for the global population. “There is still much to do in terms of improving vaccinations against measles. While the two dose regimen provides protection for populations when delivered appropriately, a single dose regimen would be ideal and for developing countries a vaccine that did not need refrigeration or require a needle and syringe would facilitate delivery,” notes Professor Griffin, whose own laboratory focuses on understanding how the body responds to the measles vaccine to provide protection. She explained further that research to develop a dry powder vaccine delivered by inhalation is one promising line of research. The dry powder vaccine uses the same safe live vaccine virus that is currently given by a shot, but is given through a face mask. This way trained medical personnel, refrigeration and needles and syringes are not required. The dry powder vaccine is effective in animal models and is currently being tested in humans.

For the looming situation in the United States, Professor Griffin encouraged all families to ensure that their children are properly vaccinated against measles. “We cannot sit back and wait for measles to once again take hold in the United States,” she warned.

For more information, click here.

 

Moscow Meeting of Top Virus Researchers Catalyzes Global Collaborations

September 26, 2013 11:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time

BALTIMORE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Members of the Global Virus Network (GVN), which includes foremost experts in every class of human virus, and represents more than 20 countries, met in Moscow this month to share information on devastating viral threats. Top scientists shared intelligence on an array of diseases threatening global health, including China’s H7N9 influenza epidemic, the alarming rise in measles cases in Europe and the United States, the unexpected re-emergence of polio, and insidious viruses causing cancer lymphomas, to name a few. Robert C. Gallo, MD, GVN Co-Founder and Scientific Director, said, “The scientific presentations at the meeting were terrific and varied. The meeting helped forge collaborations around the world that might not otherwise exist. For example, during the meeting we launched an important training program between researchers and clinicians at our Institute in Baltimore and with those in Moscow and surrounding regions in Russia.”

“Research presented in Moscow was very stimulating, and Moscow served as a catalyst for scientific collaborations that would not otherwise have been initiated”

Newly elected Chairman of the GVN Board of Directors ,Chief Executive Officer of Burrill & Company, said, “What once was a regional epidemic today grows exponentially into a global threat due to international travel, trade and other factors. A strong, interconnected network of medical virologists – a GVN – is mankind’s best defense against new and existing viral threats.” Burrill continued, “In Moscow, we strengthened our network through scientist-to-scientist exchanges on drug and vaccine development on a range of critical viral diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, measles, influenza, enterovirus, polio hemorrhagic fever and the 20% of cancers caused by viruses. Face-to-face meetings of scientists are essential in pushing knowledge forward. Our gathering of world leaders in medical virology is a vital element to success against viral foes.”

Co-founded in 2011 by Dr. Gallo, most widely known for his pioneering discoveries of the first human retroviruses, co-discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS, and development of the HIV blood test, and his colleagues William Hall, MD, PhD, Chair of Medical Microbiology and Director of the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases at University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Medicine and Medical Science in Dublin, Ireland, and Reinhard Kurth, MD, former Director of the Paul Ehrlich Institute and the Robert Koch Institute and Chairman of the Foundation Council at Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany, GVN fulfills the need for substantive increases in global collaboration to overcome gaps in research during the earliest phases of viral epidemics and medical training programs enhancing the numbers of rising medical virologists trained to meet these challenges.

“Research presented in Moscow was very stimulating, and Moscow served as a catalyst for scientific collaborations that would not otherwise have been initiated,” said Gallo, also Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We are all very grateful to our GVN Russian Center of Excellence Head and host of the meeting, Alexey Mazus, MD, Chief Expert on HIV/AIDS for the Russian Federation Ministry of Health and Head of the Moscow Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment. We look forward to launching our new collaboration.”

GVN President welcomed the announcement by Dr. Mazus explaining that the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will serve as the first training site for young Russian scientists.  The President continued,  “In addition to training in clinical virology, we hope to expand our relationship with the Russian GVN to include training for post-doctoral research fellows and other scholarships in medical virology, building on the strong foundation in virology already present in Russia.”

In addition to the Russian GVN and IHV GVN Center of Excellence collaboration announcement, IHV Associate Director and Director of the Clinical Care and Research Division, Robert Redfield, MD and his John Hopkins University colleague John Bartlett, MD and Dr. Mazus released a Russian clinical training book, “Medical Management of HIV Infection,” in partnership with the GVN.

GVN will hold its next meeting in Xi’an, China in May 2014.