Task Forces and Watch Groups
Task Forces and Watch Groups are two key activities of the Global Virus Network.
- Task Forces are formed in response to a specific virus outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic.
- Watch Groups are focused on seven highly pathogenic virus categories and emerging pathogens: respiratory, retroviruses, oncogenic, arbovirology, hemorrhagic fever, gastrointestinal, and zoonotic viruses.
Members of Task Forces and Watch Groups come from across the GVN and often include academic, institutional, and corporate members. They meet regularly—virtually—to discuss viral threats or current killers, discuss needs, and forge collaborations. Participation in Task Forces and Virus Watch Groups is by invitation. Members who have not received an invitation but wish to participate may self-identify their interest to the leaders of the Task Forces and Watch Groups.
Current Task Forces
Led by GVN President Sten Vermund, this Task Force has been very active throughout the ongoing pandemic, providing a necessary forum for the discussion of preventive and therapeutic approaches to affect transmission. Key achievements include highlighting the role of innate immunity in prevention and underscoring the protective effect of some live attenuated vaccines, including the Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine (OPV), resulting in several publications, including in The Lancet. Other highlights include (1) implementing international efforts and promote cooperative activities in response to the pandemic, (2) translating research into practical applications to improve diagnostics and effective therapy and to develop vaccines, (3) facilitating clinical trials between industry partners and center scientists, and (4) serving as a world-wide resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Led by Drs. Rubeshan Perumal, Janko Nikolich, and Anders Vahlne, this Task Force successfully championed awareness of post-acute sequelae of COVID, starting with the organization of a very timely virtual conference on the topic, with top international expert speakers. The Task Force, which includes leading virologists, clinical scientists, and epidemiologists, often hosts expert presentations and discussions. As this pandemic has taken another turn with the spread of various Omicron variants of the virus—meaning even more people will experience Long COVID—this Task Force seeks to forge global collaborations from multi-disciplinary teams, which are crucial to understanding the causes, mechanisms, and risks to develop preventive measures.
Led by Drs. Rachel Roper and Carlos Del Rio, this Task Force was activated in the Spring of 2022 in response to the outbreak of a new genetic strain that quickly spread to more than 100 countries beyond the eight African nations where Mpox is endemic/enzootic. With the amelioration of the outbreak, the group is now sharply focused on addressing the issues of quelling subsequent outbreaks (such as was seen in the summer of 2023) and on endemic countries, where infection often spreads to children in households. The range of expertise in this Task Force spans from basic research to epidemiology, clinical research, and vaccines. The group has identified key issues related to Mpox outbreaks: protection of vulnerable populations, availability of antivirals and vaccines, the necessity to of monitoring infection rates, implementation of measures to prevent community transmission, and prevent establishment of animal reservoirs in non-enzootic areas. The Task Force articulated their vision in a Vaccine paper, and meets regularly to update knowledge on spread as well as coordinate international efforts to advance research studies towards therapeutic and preventive approaches to contain and end Mpox transmission.
Led by Drs. Gene Morse and Gavin Cloherty, this Watch Group has taken as one key goal the training of the next generation of virologists in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LIMCs). Dr. Cloherty and GVN Corporate Partner Abbot have previously partnered with the GVN, supporting the training of postdoctoral fellows. Among other activities, this Watch Group is now also focusing on matching mentors and trainees from LMICs to support their applications for funding from the Fogarty International Center, as well as from other sources.
Led by Drs. Scott Weaver and Nikos Vasiliakis, this Watch Group typically meets for a presentation by a key speaker and for evaluating epidemiological trends of Dengue and Zika virus outbreaks/epidemics worldwide. The members of this Watch Group are committed to finding solutions to the challenges posed by these viruses in endemic areas. This group is aiming to provide (1) genomic surveillance (2) development of innovative vaccines and therapeutics, and (3) technical support to low- and middle-income countries, (4) collaboration opportunities between the GVN Academic Centers of Excellence and Corporate Partners.
Led by Dr. Robert Garry, this Watch Group is made up of representatives from all GVN Centers of Excellence, its affiliates, and leading international experts with relevant research and skills to address outbreaks of Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa viruses. To discuss practical steps in responding to these outbreaks, this Watch Group will have conference calls and, as necessary, virtual meetings. With assistance from the GVN, this watch group will also issue media comments as needed to respond to developing situations. Because speed and authority are important components during outbreaks of these particularly deadly viruses, members of this Watch Group are encouraged reference this GVN Watch Group as well as their own professional affiliation when responding in outbreak situations.
Led by Drs. Ghedin and Segales, this Watch Group convenes monthly to collaboratively explore research updates, analyze current outbreaks, and formulate solutions to address respiratory viruses. Drawing on zoonosis expertise of virologists and epidemiologists, this dedicated group also provides critical epidemiological updates. It serves as a vital platform for sharing the latest findings, staying informed about global outbreaks, and actively contributing to strategies aimed at countering these viruses on a global scale.
Viral Detection and Control
Led by Dr. Syed Sattar, this Watch Group discusses ways to detect and control emerging viruses while also advocating for hygiene as a key prevention strategy to abate viral transmission. This Watch Group also seeks to identify standards to measure the efficacy of hygiene approaches, including air purification and surface cleaning. Advising and advocacy is a key component of this Watch Group, not just to remind the public and national authorities of the importance of preventive measures, but also to address critical issues in the deployment of effective hygiene procedures: for example, some countries do not allow claims on the antiviral properties of soaps and detergents because they are treated as “cosmetics.”