Top GVN Experts Inspire Rising International Virologists

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, August 29, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN) earlier this month held its 6th Annual Short Course in Basic and Translational Virology on July 28-August 3 for 18 early-career human and animal virologists from Argentina, Bolivia, Germany, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea and United States of America. The preeminent one-week course on basic, translational and clinical aspects of viruses featured world-renowned researchers drawn from GVN Centers of Excellence, encompassing 51 Centers of Excellence and nine affiliates in 30 countries and comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans and some animals. The Short Course is designed to counter a declining number of researchers entering the field of human and animal virology.

The announcement was made by Robert Gallo, MD, Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor, GVN and Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President, GVN.

“The annual GVN Short Course is a unique opportunity I wish I had when I was new to the field,” said Gallo, who is also The Homer and Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder & Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV), University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence. “Scientific research challenges, such as developing an effective preventive HIV vaccine candidate, abound. It is incumbent upon my colleagues and I to cultivate an environment to advance and train burgeoning medical virologists, and to prepare them to take collective responsibility for current and future viral threats.”

“This year’s agenda included presentations from GVN experts in hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, human T-cell leukemia virus, human immunodeficiency virus, measles, arboviruses, Ebola, Lassa fever, bioinformatics, influenza, human papilloma viruses, polio and other enteroviruses, bio-surveillance, biosafety and biosecurity, antiviral drug discovery, laboratory diagnostics, vaccine development and One Health,” said Bréchot. “Participants visited GVN Centers of Excellence at the IHV and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where they received an insectary tour. They also visited the National Institutes of Health for a tour of the National Library of Medicine and to hear presentations from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Fogarty International Research Center.”

At the end of the annual course, participants elect a fellow participant as the “next emerging leader in virology” based on leadership and expertise. This year’s nominee, who will return next year as a speaker, is Matilu Mwau, MB, ChB, MTM, DPhil, Chief Research Officer, Kenya Medical Research Institute. Past nominees include Florian Krammer, PhD (2014), Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA; Christina Gavegnano, PhD (2015), Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University, USA; Miguel Garcia-Knight, PhD (2016), Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias Microbiológicas, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico; Yuki Furuse, MD, PhD (2017), Assistant Professor at the Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences at Kyoto University, Japan; and, Elysse Grossi-Soyster, MS, (2018) Laboratory Manager & Researcher, LaBeaud Lab, Stanford University School of Medicine.

“The GVN Annual Short Course is intense and comprehensive,” said Mwau. “We were trained by renowned experts including, Drs. Robert Gallo and Scott Weaver, on the most important emerging and reemerging viral diseases. By the end of the course, I had already decided that my infectious diseases research interests must be adjusted to capture these realities.”

“The GVN short course is a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from the experts who have generated much of the cutting edge research that forms the basis of our understanding of viral outbreaks causing the worst diseases in the world today,” said Allison Totura, PhD, a participant of this year’s course and ORISE Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Viral Pathogenesis Branch, Virology Division, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. “To be able to gain the perspective of collective leaders in the many aspects of medical virology on where the field stands as well as where it is going is an unparalleled resource to early career scientists. Although I have a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, this course helped to fill gaps in my didactic training that can only be provided by the best of the best in the fields of basic and translational science. One of the greatest benefits of the course is the connections made with virologists studying similar pathogens, as the GVN works to link virologists around the globe who have similar interests, but might not otherwise connect with each other.”*

This year’s GVN Short Course speakers, in addition to Gallo and Bréchot, among others, included: Konstantin Chumakov, PhD, Associate Director for Research, Office of Vaccines Research and Review, U.S. Federal Drug Administration; José Esparza MD, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, IHV and formerly of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization; Genoveffa Franchini, MD, Senior Investigator, Vaccine Branch, Head, Animal Models and Retroviral Vaccines Section, National Cancer Institute, NIH; Robert Garry, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Associate Dean for the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, Tulane Medical School; Diane Griffin MD, PhD, University Distinguished Service Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; RADM Peter Kilmarx, MD, FACP, FIDSA, Deputy Director, Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Shyam Kottilil, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Clinical Care and Research, IHV; Christopher Kratochvil, MD, Professor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research Chief Medical Officer, UNeHealth, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Mary Marovich, MD, Director, Vaccine Research Program, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH; Gene Morse, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, SUNY Distinguished Professor, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Director of the UB Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences, Co-Director of the SUNY Global Health Institute, University at Buffalo; Ab Osterhaus, PhD, DVM, Director, Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses, Professor, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, CEO, Artemis One Health Foundation; Manizhe Payton, MPH, Director, Office of Clinical Site Oversight, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH; Richard H. Scheuermann, PhD, Director, La Jolla Campus. J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI); and, Scott Weaver, MS, PhD, John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Human Infections and Immunity, John S. Dunn Distinguished Chair in Biodefense, Scientific Director, Galveston National Laboratory, The University of Texas Medical Branch.

The GVN is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind. It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in human and animal virology. The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

The GVN will host its 12th International meeting in Colombia, Medellin, September 13-15, 2020.

*The information contained in this press release does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government and no official endorsement should be inferred.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, comprised of leading human and animal virologists from 30 countries. The GVN’s mission is to combat current and emerging pandemic viral threats through international collaborative research, training the next generation of medical virologists, and advocacy. For more information, please visit Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Media Contact:
Nora Samaranayake, GVN
[email protected]

A Summary of Recent Advances in Ebola Treatment

August 21, 2019

Only two years ago, neither a vaccine cure for the Ebola Virus, nor effective antivirals existed to prevent Ebola Virus Disease. Recovery for those infected was through the strength of their own immune system, and according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors treated patients while keeping them well hydrated, and providing supportive care, helping them to breathe to boost the immune system which offered a better chance to fight off the disease. Doctors attempted to give the patients blood serum transfusions from the antibodies of those who survived Ebola. The current wave, 2018-2019, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is the second deadliest ever. Untreated patients have a 70% death-rate; while, vaccinated persons have a 90% survival rate. Last summer, 1,800 people perished in the DRC (World Health Organization and BBC News, August 13, 2019).

Today, two new antibody-based therapies, REGN-EB3, led by Neil Stahl, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and mAB114, under the direction of Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were recently discovered most effective against the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, based on synthetic, monoclonal antibodies and interruption of the virus life-cycle. Previously, drug treatment, ZMAPP/MAPP of Biopharmaceuticals carried a 49% fatality rate, and Remdesivir from Gilead has a 53% fatality rate. Of the four new treatments, in November 2018, randomized trials in four towns, REGN-EB3 and mAB-114 proved most effective. Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 is most recommended with 29% fatality rate reduction; followed by NIAID’s mAB114 at a 34% rate reduction, (BBC News, August 13, 2019). When treated early, the mortality drops to 6%, and 11%, respectively.

Treatment challenges exist, as refrigeration of RGN-EB3 and AB-114 make distribution difficult. Small molecule antivirals serve better in urban and remote areas, not requiring refrigeration, and thus, complementing antibody-based therapies. The virus, moreover, may mutate, becoming antibody resistant; therefore, options are needed.

Meanwhile, Merck vaccine candidate, rVSV-ZEEBOV, showed 100% protection rate, during a Phase 3, single-dose, cluster, randomized, ring trial in Guinea; where 5,837 subjects given the shot were not infected ten days after immunization. V920 (rVSV-ZEBOV-GP) is a recombinant, replication-competent Ebola vaccine, consisting of a vesicular stomatitis which has been genetically engineered to express a glycoprotein from the Zaire strain, provoking a naturalized immune response. The trial was conducted by a team of researchers from the WHO, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Health Ministry of Guinea and Médecins Sans Frontières, among others. “We believe the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, the Word Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation (Precision vaccinations, Carlson, Robert & EPG Health, August 2, 2017). Marie-Paule Kieny and Anne Marie Henao Restrepo, et al., performed the first successful Phase 1 and 2 Ebola vaccine clinical trial, March 23, 2016-January 20, 2017, (Lancet, February 04, 2017).

Merck’s clinical trials are in their final stages, and are expected completion by the end of 2020. The vaccine is designed for post-exposure settings, including high fatality adult, maternal and neonatal groups. Screening, population mapping and a ring strategy is performed, identifying high-risk areas. Ebola treatment centers provide, in addition, aggressive rehydration, correction of electrolyte imbalances and nutritional support. This supportive care is a prerequisite to the use of novel therapeutics or vaccines.

Drugs alone will not solve the problem, however, community-foreign preparedness, regional capacity-building, vaccine prevention, surveillance and therapeutic treatment will all be required. The disease is exacerbated, and may continue to spread. Furthermore, due to government instability, war and genocide, lack of education, infrastructure, and cultural beliefs fostering mistrust in vaccines, healthcare workers and a general lack of preparedness, treatment, community engagement and trust building will be essential to effective care provision (New England Journal of Medicine, August 25, 2018).


About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, comprised of leading human and animal virologists from 29 countries. The GVN’s mission is to combat current and emerging pandemic viral threats through international collaborative research, training the next generation of medical virologists, and advocacy. For more information, please visit Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews