Serum bank provides leading repository of Zika serum samples to support coordinated, global research effort to address Zika crisis
Baltimore, Maryland, US – October 17, 2016: The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 37 Centers of Excellence and six affiliates in 25 countries and comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans, today announced that the Allergan Foundation, a U.S.-based private charitable foundation endowed by Allergan plc, has donated $100,000 to the GVN Zika Task Force to help supports efforts to address the growing Zika crisis.
The Allergan Foundation donation will allow the GVN Zika Task Force to establish an international serum bank housing collected blood donations from individuals after confirmed infection with the Zika virus. The donation comes at a critical time in the fight against the growing Zika pandemic amid lack of funding sources necessary to combat the virus.
“The Allergan Foundation is proud to support GVN in its efforts to address the global health challenge society faces from the Zika virus,” said Gwyn Grenrock, Executive Director, The Allergan Foundation. “Through this donation to the Global Virus Network, we will have a direct impact on the important work being done in the U.S. and internationally to better diagnose and advance understanding of Zika.”
“Allergan is committed to supporting healthcare professionals and organizations in their efforts to address the diagnosis, prevention and public health challenges posed by growing global healthcare threats, including the international Zika crisis,” said Gavin Corcoran, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Allergan. “Allergan, through the philanthropic support of the Allergan Foundation, is proud to support this critical research effort by the Global Virus Network, and to potentially working with GVN on future research and public health efforts.”
“We are most appreciative of the Allergan Foundation’s donation and for their leadership for this important global research project and we look forward to additional opportunities for a growing partnership,” said Robert Gallo, MD, who is co-founder and scientific director of the Global Virus Network (GVN) and most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV. He continued, “Allergan’s donation allows GVN Zika researchers to work offensively as opposed to defensively. I often challenge those asking why scientists aren’t moving faster, acting quicker by suggesting that funders invest more so that laboratory discoveries can quickly translate to public health solutions, particularly during an acute outbreak. Allergan’s donation does just that for the Zika pandemic.” Dr. Gallo is also director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.
The GVN Zika Task Force is chaired by Scott Weaver, MS, PhD, who is also director of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and scientific director of the Galveston National Laboratory, a GVN Center of Excellence. The Task Force serves as a catalyst for driving communication and information flow between fellow GVN colleagues researching and responding to the Zika epidemic gripping the world.
“A major obstacle to understanding and controlling the Zika epidemic is affordable, accurate diagnostics,” said Dr. Weaver. “This Zika serum bank will meet a critical global deficit by expanding a burgeoning program to obtain, validate and make available consistent, high quality immune sera from a wide variety of convalescent patients after definitive Zika diagnosis. Meaningful international collaborations are the key to ending this Zika outbreak.” According to the World Health Organization, 73 countries and territories are reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus transmissions.
In a GVN survey of its Centers of Excellence and 28 GVN Zika Task Force members, lack of sera from definitively diagnosed patients was identified as a major need to move the diagnostic field forward. Limited quantities of sera are a result of a number of variables, including patients typically providing only a small amount of blood that is consumed for their own diagnosis, leaving little to no sample to evaluate new tests. This newly funded serum bank will alleviate this issue by providing clinical samples to evaluate immune response to Zika virus infection and to compare this response to those of vaccines participating in the first human clinical trials. “Our goal is to assemble a collection of at least 25 sera, each in quantities to supply 25 or more investigators. Oversight by my team at UTMB, the GVN leadership, and Zika Task force members, will ensure that these precious samples are made available to the most worthy requestors,” said Dr. Weaver.
About the Allergan Foundation
The Allergan Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation committed to providing a lasting and positive impact in the communities in which Allergan plc employees live and work. In addition to allocating resources primarily on health and human services, the Foundation conducts grant making in support of civic and community programs, education and the arts. Since its inception in 1998, The Allergan Foundation has distributed more than $60 million to a wide variety of philanthropic pursuits – improving lives, elevating communities.
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