Global Virus Network (GVN) Coordinates Efforts Between Top International Experts Researching COVID-19

The GVN Is Connecting Academia, Governments, Public Health Organizations and Industry to Advance the Response for COVID-19 and Prepare for the Next Outbreak

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, February 18, 2020:  The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 53 Centers of Excellence and 9 Affiliates in 32 countries comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans and some animals, is holding regular strategic discussions with its members regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China this past December.  The GVN, among other critical tasks, is forming subcommittees to make scientific recommendations requested of the network.

“GVN is serving as an information hub, not just for its Centers and Affiliates, but for public health entities and some industry leaders,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN, and a Professor at the University of South Florida.  “We will be providing recommendations and suggested guidelines for researching COVID-19 in laboratories worldwide, while working with organizations such as the China CDC and Africa CDC as well as companies with scientifically-proven products for testing.”

COVID-19 has spread to other global regions, including Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.  As of Tuesday morning, February 18, there are more than 73,000 infected around the world and at least 1,873 dead, including five deaths outside of mainland China.  The numbers are likely higher.

“We have one of twelve antibodies against MERS and have submitted a grant to the European Union (EU) to study cross-reactivity and advance a SARS-2/coronavirus vaccine candidate,” said Ab Osterhaus, PhD, DVM, Director of The Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonosis (RIZ) at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany, a Center Director of the GVN, and CEO of Artemis One Health Foundation, Germany.  “At the EVAg meeting I am attending now, we are sharing information about an EU repository for the virus and we look forward to extending accessibility of the virus worldwide.”

“We have been involved in setting up the first diagnostics and helping countries establish this for case finding, as the most urgent need,” said Marion Koopmans, DVM, PhD, Head of the Department of Virosciences of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, Netherlands, who is director of its GVN Center of Excellence, and a worldwide reference in zoonotic viral diseases and emerging viruses.  “With an EU network of more than 800 hospitals, we are preparing for observational studies and clinical trials, so that we may start enrolling patients if the outbreak grows further outside of China.  Our research agenda includes addressing some key questions about risk factors and studying pathogenesis and immune response in the European population.  Further, we have an interesting reference database of data and samples from patients with different human coronaviruses from previous years, coupled with animal infection experiments to study pathogenesis and transmissibility of the new coronavirus. Lastly, our animal work also involves vaccine evaluation and therapeutic antibody studies.”

Dr. Koopmans attended the recent World Health Organization (WHO) meeting convened last week to address COVID-19.  This was the second time that the WHO convened scientists from across the globe to receive guidance from the scientific community during an acute outbreak. The meeting identified essential knowledge gaps and existing, ongoing research. Part of the meeting was dedicated to defining key priorities, which will be presented to a consortium of funders. As scientific advisor of both the WHO R&D Blueprint and GLOPID-R, Dr. Koopmans notes, “it is fascinating to see how these new coordination mechanisms work. Compared with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the response has been much faster, and prepared through the WHO Blueprint. It now is up to the scientific community to listen to the research needs, seek collaboration and share essential data immediately.”

“We are working with the GVN and Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry of St. Jude to submit a grant to the U.S. National Institutes of Health to focus on an animal model study of COVID-19,” said Elodie Ghedin, PhD, Professor of Biology and Global Public Health at New York University.  “In collaboration with Dr. Michael Schatz at Johns Hopkins, we have also contributed to developing a new virus genomic sequence assembly application (iGenomics) that can be used with an iPhone in the field.”

“We are working on several projects, including a proposal from the EU Commission on animal model testing for antivirals in addition to projects with the government of Spain,” said Joaquim Segalés, DVM, PhD, Researcher from the Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA), Spain,a GVN Center of Excellence.

“We continue to distribute virus samples internationally and are working to identify the structure of the virus and further genome sequencing,” said Mike Catton, MB BS, FRCPA, Deputy Director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia and Member of the GVN.  “We look forward to hearing from GVN’s specialized subcommittee on BSL-3 versus BSL-4 laboratory testing for COVID-19.”

“Singapore is receiving many requests for virus isolates, and we are looking to our GVN colleagues to advise on how best to prioritize distribution,” said Linfa Wang, PhD, Director of the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School and a Center Director of the GVN, Singapore.

“We have researchers at the UB GVN Center of Excellence and UB – Roswell Park Drug Development Center with expertise in identifying potential drugs using target molecules and ‘repurposing’ software simulation approaches. Our GVN center can also develop and validate antiviral drug assays and collaborate with industry for bioanalysis and pharmacokinetics of investigational antivirals. The UB GVN Center also has Affiliate Centers in Zimbabwe and Jamaica that can contribute to evaluation of innovative early warning technologies for COVID-19 infection in their regions,” said Gene Morse, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Director of the Translational Pharmacology Research Core and UB’s Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences as well as a GVN Center Director.

“Our lab is actively working on COVID-19 researching antiviral screening, monoclonal antibody screening, and vaccine testing, in both cells and mice,” said Mathew Frieman, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Affiliate Member of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “We have an infectious clone that we hope will be recovered this week in the BSL-3, and then we will be making mutants across many genes in the clone to advance the study of COVID-19.”

“RKI is currently supplying our international partners with coronavirus diagnostics, mainly PCR primers, probes and controls, but also other supplies, if needed,” said Heinz Ellerbrok, PhD, Deputy Head of the Highly Infectious Diseases Unit at the Robert Koch Institute, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “We have started with shipment of PCR sets to Nigeria CDC on the 6th of February. In the meantime, RKI has supported, or is in the process of supporting, 13 partner institutions in 10 different countries, mainly in Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, and also countries like Sri Lanka and Yemen.”

Media Contact:
Nora Samaranayake, GVN
410-706-8614
[email protected]

Global Virus Network (GVN) Convenes Discussions with International Top Experts to Combat Growing Novel Coronavirus Epidemic

The GVN Is Bridging Gaps in the Global Emergency Response and Serving as a “Go-To” Resource for Members Needing Assistance in Obtaining and Disseminating Cutting-Edge Scientific Research

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, February 6, 2020:  The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 53 Centers of Excellence and 9 Affiliates in 32 countries comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans and some animals, is holding regular strategic discussions with its members regarding the growing novel coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, which originated in Wuhan, China this past December.  The GVN has identified areas to support its Centers and work with international organizations addressing the growing epidemic.

“GVN Centers of Excellence and Affiliates, with strong working relationships among them, are poised to engage in any outbreak situation by providing the world’s only network of top basic virologists from around the globe covering all classes of human viral threats,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN, and a Professor at the University of South Florida.  “Many members of the GVN are initiating various projects regarding diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to combat this rapidly expanding, novel, outbreak.  However, there are still resource needs and information gaps that need to be filled, and GVN is helping to serve as that important resource. In particular, we have engaged GVN Africa to foster collaborations on diagnostics and other important resource needs.”

“We are organizing a workshop for the diagnosis of 2019-nCoV in Dakar for 15 countries in a joint partnership with Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in collaboration with the World Health Regional Office for Africa and the West African Health Organization before the epidemic arrives,” said Amadou Alpha Sall, PhD, General Administrator, Institut Pasteur in Dakar, the region’s top biomedical research facility, and Member, Global Virus Network (GVN).  “We are contributing to build ‘the Africa We Want’ in 2063 Africa agenda, while making sure that we anticipate the threat rather than reacting to it.  This is a new model of work for Africa under the leadership of Africa CDC catalyzed by Ebola and other outbreaks that may change the public health practice in Africa in the coming years.”

2019-nCoV has spread to other global regions, including Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.  As of Thursday morning, February 6, there are over 28,000 infected and more than 560 dead, while the rest of the world reports more than 260 confirmed cases and two deaths outside of mainland China.  The numbers are likely higher.

On January 29, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), a GVN Center of Excellence, in Melbourne announced that, for the first time outside of China, they successfully grew 2019-nCoV from a patient sample in the laboratory and were the first to share the virus with public health laboratories globally and the World Health Organization (WHO). This provides those laboratories, including those within the GVN, with crucial information to help combat the virus.

Mike Catton, MB BS, FRCPA, Deputy Director of the Doherty Institute and Member of the GVN, said that possession of a virus isolate extended what could be achieved with molecular technology in the fight against this virus.

The Doherty Institute-grown virus is expected to be used to generate an antibody test, among other uses, which allows detection of the virus in patients who haven’t displayed symptoms and were therefore unaware they had the virus.

“An antibody test will enable us to retrospectively test suspected patients so we can gather a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is, and consequently, among other things, the true mortality rate,” said Dr. Catton.

On January 23, after Chinese researchers published the sequence of 2019-nCoV, a GVN partner, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), announced that it will fund three vaccine initiatives with $12.5 million, including GVN Center of Excellence, the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centere at the University of Queensland (UQ). Further, on February 3, CEPI and GSK announced that GSK will make its established pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform technology available to enhance the development of an effective vaccine against 2019-nCoV. Adjuvants are added to a vaccine to boost the immune response to produce more antibodies and longer-lasting immunity, thus minimizing the dose of antigen needed.

“The University of Queensland’s ‘molecular clamp technology’ provides stability to the viral protein that is the primary target for our immune defense,” said Paul Young, PhD, Head of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at UQ, Australia and Member of the GVN.  “The technology has been designed as a platform approach to generate vaccines against a range of human and animal viruses and has shown promising results in the laboratory targeting viruses such as influenza, Ebola, Nipah and MERS coronavirus. The availability of the GSK adjuvant will enable us to carry out important pre-clinical experiments designed to assess vaccine effectiveness.”

Other GVN researchers are sourcing their MERS and SARS coronavirus expertise to advance vaccine development for this new outbreak. “With our experience and novel contributions to the MERS and SARS outbreaks as well as the deadly zoonosis influenza viruses, H7N7 and H5N1, we are working to develop a vaccine against this new, novel coronavirus,” said Ab Osterhaus, PhD, DVM, Director of the The Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonosis (RIZ) at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany, a Center Director of the GVN, and CEO of Artemis One Health Foundation, Germany. “Specifically, we are poised to study T-Cell and IgM antibody response using our expertise in animal models.”

Linfa Wang, PhD, Director of the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School and a Center Director of the GVN, Singapore, is developing diagnostics for 2019-nCoV with collaborators in China. Dr.  Wang, who sequenced and named Australia’s bat-borne Hendra virus more than 25 years ago, has obtained multiple isolates of the virus, and is focused on studying serology and cross-reactivity and contamination on diagnostics. Dr. Wang believes the deadly new coronavirus “appears to be more infectious than the 2003 SARS coronavirus.”  Further he warns, “Despite the possibility for criticisms of an overreaction, it is imperative that we act quickly and effectively, as the alternative of an underreaction could potentially lead to more deaths worldwide.”

“We are funneling resources towards this new novel virus research on animal infection, transmission and reservoirs,” said Joaquim Segalés, DVM, PhD, Researcher from the Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA), Spain and a Center Director of the GVN.  “We also have a number of reagents against MERS available, and are waiting to receive isolates of the virus, hopefully from our GVN colleagues.”

“Our GVN colleagues in Melbourne at the Doherty Institute are shipping a sample of this new novel virus as we speak,” said Johan Neyts, PhD, Professor of Virology, Rega Institute for Medical Research at the University of Leuven and a Center Director of the GVN.  “We are developing a dual yellow fever/2019-nCoV using our revolutionary Plasmid Launched Live Attenuated Virus (PLAV) technology based. We managed recently to do the same with yellow fever and other viruses such as Lassa and rabies.  Further, using our fully automated high biosafety laboratory, we are leading an intensive research effort to develop therapeutics against 2019-nCoV.”

“The GVN wishes to help and collaborate with other scientists globally, and especially to include the China GVN and China CDC, whose scientists, under the leadership of Dr. George F. Gao, have made important initial contributions to the genomic characterization and epidemiology of this deadly virus,” said Robert Gallo, MD, Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the GVN.  Dr. Gallo is also The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)
The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions.  It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 53 Centers of Excellence and 9 Affiliates in 32 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them.  No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Media Contact:
Nora Samaranayake, GVN
410-706-8614
[email protected]