GVN 2020 Special Annual Meeting Executive Summary

A New Era in the Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic: Forging a “Viral Pandemic Readiness Alliance”

A September 22-23, 2020 Special Meeting of Top Global Experts Launches “Global Virus Network’s Vision for Future Pandemic Preparedness”

We are in the midst of a pandemic that has completely upended the world with major economic, social and psychological impacts. The major threat to public health is not only connected to COVID-19-related mortalities, but also to associated morbidity and, possibly, sequelae; moreover COVID-19 impacts overall population health due to the disorganization of health systems.

We must be very humble, as we cannot predict what the future could hold: seasonal variations? Long term persistence? Or regression? We need to keep in mind that the reason behind the SARS-CoV-1 epidemic’s regression has remained in part mysterious. In fact, eradication of the virus seems impossible, and herd immunity may be very difficult to achieve. Thus, we must learn to live with the virus.

It is increasingly clearer that we are not facing “another health crisis.” We are entering a new era where novel modes of organization must be designed. We cannot wait for the current crisis to conclude to prepare for the next—we must act now!

Despite significant progress in global health following previous epidemics and pandemics (including HIV, Influenza and Ebola), and although we were aware of the potential risk of such new pandemics, we were not sufficiently prepared. There are two immediate consequences for global health policies:

  • The importance of infectious diseases, global and “one health” are only further emphasized.
  • The divergence between politics and health in many countries has led to disastrous decisions. As such, we need to provide governing leaders with science-driven and independent strategies.

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is poised to be an important partner in achieving these objectives. This is a coalition of the foremost virologists worldwide, representing 57 research centers and 10 affiliates in 33 countries, and growing by the day. The GVN coordinates scientific projects and has organized task forces on specific viruses including Zika, Chikungunya, and HTLV-1, and now SARS-CoV-2. The organization also has a major focus on education, training and mentoring others in the field. Globally, there is a lack of critical mass in scientists, medical doctors and public health professionals working on infectious diseases. The GVN plays a significant role in advocacy and providing statements (in particular through its website https://gvn.org/). Science-driven and independent expertise are key drivers of meaningful public health strategies, and through its network of outstanding virologists worldwide, GVN offers national and international institutions, as well as industrial partners, a unique source of information and recommendations.

In this context, the GVN organized a two-day workshop dedicated to COVID-19 and future pandemic preparedness with the aim to evaluate what has been improperly and properly handled during these first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading. The workshop looked at precisely identifying the challenges ahead, the actions to take and how the GVN can collaborate with the many institutions to meet these needs. The goal of the workshop was not to revisit in detail all topics and known facts.  A video of the full post-meeting press conference, can be found here.

The following summarizes the major issues discussed:

1) Preparedness: We were not prepared, and we need to prepare now; This implies novel organizational modalities.

  • Cooperation and coordination, beyond goodwill and fashionable wordings; too many institutions are still working in silos with self-interest strategies.
  • Leverage technologic innovation and scientific progress to produce diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.
  • Contemplate and implement novel modes of interactions between academics and industrials, and such partnerships have been at the heart of the GVN since its inception.
  • Multi- and transdisciplinary collaborations, including social and behavioral sciences, and perception of communication.
  • International collaborations: one country alone cannot solve the problem. While this seems obvious, most countries have reacted on an isolated basis. A global collaboration network for pandemic preparedness and prevention needs to be implemented immediately.

2) Prediction: Humans are the best sentinels. Is it feasible to predict future pandemics? How to sufficiently organize surveillance?

  • We must recognize that we cannot predict future pandemics, though we can improve our strategies. Yet, we have sufficient technologies and data analysis systems (including artificial intelligence), but we need to establish implementation and global data sharing mechanisms.
  • We know that animal viruses are major risk factors for the next epidemics and pandemics. This is even increasingly at stake. During the meeting scientists emphasized that five of the seven human coronaviruses identified (229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1, SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2) in the last 20 years have emerged from bats. Humans are modifying ecosystems and are in fact accelerating transmission events.
  • Comprehensive sequencing-based analysis of all viruses worldwide (“animal viromes”) provides useful knowledge but does not predict transmission to humans. GVN scientists point to the importance of focusing surveillance efforts to the human populations who interface with animals.

3) Origin: There is no scientific evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was disseminated by human manipulation.

  • GVN scientists all concur on this controversy.
  • The mission to find out the origins of the virus was a true international collaboration and transparent process featuring scientists from China, America, Australia, Japan, France, and the Philippines.
  • There is a 1,200-nucleotide difference between the closest backbone virus and SARS-CoV-2, representing 4 to the power of 1,200 possible combinations. Even if someone had unlimited research funding and all the best virologists in the world, no one could make this virus.
  • An extensive study will be conducted starting in China and through Southeast Asia to identify the origins of the virus and to allow much better surveillance and mitigation for future emerging viruses.

4) Transmission: “Super spreaders” and “super spreading” events are major drivers of pandemics.

  • COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease with very low mortality directly induced by the virus, thus the ideal condition for a virus to spread. The importance of masks, physical distancing and handwashing is well-known. GVN scientists also emphasize the importance of research on disinfectants, an underappreciated protective measure.
  • As re-emphasized in this workshop, only a handful of those infected seem highly contagious. Thus, transmission is driven by a limited number of individuals who behave as “super spreaders.” Why do some individuals (a.k.a. “super spreaders”) transmit viruses to so many others? Although we know that such individuals show high viral load and are generally, yet not always, younger, this cannot fully account for this spreading. What are the other factors? Thus far, research focused on such individuals is mandatory. The question remains whether we can identify novel biomarkers, though we would need to fully exclude stigmatization.
  • Also, this implies for obvious statistical reasons that large gatherings are major risk factors for being in contact with such rare “super spreaders” and thus contributors to rapid viral wide spreading. Therefore, we should not only speak of “super spreaders” but also of “super spreading” events.
  • Aerosol-related transmission is still a controversial issue. Yet, GVN scientists have emphasized that the impact of short-range aerosol-driven transmission contributes to the dissemination of the virus, particularly in the context of “super spreading” events. Masks are very efficient against large droplets but are unfortunately less efficient against such aerosols.

5) Diagnostic: Efficient and rapid diagnostic testing is the key for controlling an infectious disease, and we have not benefited enough from the huge technology progress in this area.

  • Nothing is needed more than rapid diagnostic tests. We need to trace and follow infected individuals and their contacts. We need to educate the general public. This is absolutely the foundation, and we cannot do anything without it.
  • There is now ample evidence that salivary sampling can be used instead of nasal swabs in both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected individuals. This can overhaul access to testing, in particular but not only in children. Rapid tests, whether molecular or immune-based, are now available at a low cost, and presentations have been made by GVN scientists demonstrating these points. Point-of-care rapid tests should also be available.
  • Important progress has been made regarding serological assays, offering major insights not only on the epidemiology but also defining the neutralization capacity of detected antibodies as novel correlates for protection. These are fully necessary for evaluating protective measures, novel therapies and vaccines. As an example, some presentations showed that the nature of the antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 significantly differs when comparing children and elderly, possibly accounting for variations in disease severity. Yet, we need standardized protocols for neutralizing assays. Also, the protective efficacy of antibodies needs to be further substantiated. GVN scientists have emphasized the need to get access to the cellular immune response for delineating such correlates of protection.
  • Discussions have been focused on how we should provide novel organizational schemes to favor rapid translation from technology-driven research to routine testing, and partnerships between academic and industrial partners should be reinforced in an international context. Institutions such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations created for vaccine development are interesting models to get such novel consortia moving faster.

6) Therapeutics: Despite a huge effort made on drug repurposing so far, we have achieved limited results.

  • Drug repurposing must continue to be at the heart of the therapeutic strategy, providing immediate access of well characterized molecules and allowing massive screening for antiviral activities. However, we do not yet have access to drugs that can prevent transmission in high-risk groups or treat early infections. In fact, we are left with combining steroids, Remdesivir (with some but limited efficacy) and anticoagulants for severe infections with pneumonia. Though, several ongoing studies offer hope for novel prophylactic and early treatment molecules.
  • In this context, GVN scientists have emphasized the need for research agencies to fund not only drug repurposing but also drug discovery. Drug discovery will take time to lead to novel accessible molecules – this is a long battle and not a single crisis.
  • Several presentations demonstrated the potential of novel therapeutic avenues, from immunomodulatory to direct antiviral approaches. Antivirals are only meaningful in the early phase of the infection.
  • The trend will be to use drugs targeting multiple pathways and to combine antivirals and immunomodulatory molecules. Additionally, GVN scientist are addressing the possibility of developing broad spectrum antivirals, which could be effective against coronaviruses, influenza and filoviruses (involved in hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Zika etc.).

7) Vaccines: Safety, efficacy and durability are predominant concerns of COVID-19 vaccine development. Nonspecific immunization procedures must be considered along with COVID-19-specific vaccines.

  • Enormous parallel efforts are being made worldwide utilizing innovative approaches to shorten the vaccine development time. There is uncertainty as to when vaccines for COVID-19 will be readily available for mass vaccination and which formula will be the most efficient. Importantly, we need to ensure the safety of vaccines by testing proper animal models and complying with regulatory requirements – we simply cannot incur adverse reactions.
  • We also need second-generation vaccines that are more focused on the cell immune response.
  • Stimulation of the Innate immune response by non-specific immunization, for example: Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), Oral Polio Virus, is extremely important. GVN scientists made important presentations on this topic, illustrating how BCG-based strategies have already allowed in different contexts to decrease the neonates’ overall mortality in Africa and the rate of respiratory infections in elderly. Mechanisms accounting for stimulation of innate immune response in COVID-19 were thoroughly discussed, and ongoing trials on the impact of BCG and Oral Polio Virus-based vaccines on COVID-19 were deliberated. This approach is complementary to specific vaccine development and might offer a bridge before getting an efficient and sufficiently characterized vaccine.

Conclusions:

It is not a crisis – it is a new era. We have major challenges ahead.  We need a new organization and we need it now.  This is where the GVN is very important, and complementary to national and international agencies. This workshop has led GVN to forge a unified and multidisciplinary pandemic response strategy, tentatively named the Viral Pandemic Readiness Alliance (VPRA) by collaborations with university, industry, government and communities to merge the efforts and find solutions together.

  • True international collaborations are essential and go beyond good and fashionable wordings. Global, One Health and VPRA strategy can support future pandemic preparedness with distribution of diagnostics, vaccine and therapeutics and other interventional measures.
  • In a surge of COVID-19 publications and news releases, we need reliable channels for dissemination of scientific knowledge and information sharing. GVN and VPRA can contribute to this global collaboration effort by assisting the UN, WHO, CEPI, Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other organizations to serve this purpose.

 

GVN 2020 Meeting Press Release

GVN International Press Conference September 24, 2020

Global Virus Network (GVN) Presents Doherty Institute Director, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin with the Robert C. Gallo Award for Scientific Excellence and Leadership in Medical Virology

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, September 22, 2020: The Global Virus Network (GVN), comprising foremost experts around the world in every class of virus-causing disease in humans and some animals, today presented Doherty Institute Director, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin with the Robert C. Gallo Award for Scientific Excellence and Leadership in Medical Virology  Presented today at the GVN Special Annual Meeting, Professor Lewin was selected for her outstanding clinical virology research and clinical trials, her leadership in Australian medical science as Director of the Doherty Institute, and her leadership in the GVN.

Professor Lewin has an international reputation in the field of HIV latency and eradication and immune reconstitution and HIV-hepatitis B virus co-infection.

In 2020 she has worked tirelessly at the helm of the Doherty Institute which has been at the forefront of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Lewin said it was an incredible honour to be presented with the Robert Gallo Award.

“The GVN is among other things, dedicated to identifying, research, combatting and preventing current and emerging pandemic viruses, it’s reason for being has never been so relevant. It’s a privilege to receive the Robert Gallo Award, and to be so closely linked as a GVN Center of Excellence Director,” Professor Lewin said.

The Doherty Institute is one of 57 GVN global Centers of Excellence, which Professor Lewin co-leads with Professor Damian Purcell and Professor Peter Revill.

The award is named after GVN Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor, Professor Robert Gallo, who is most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS and the development of the HIV blood test.

“Sharon Lewin is an international leader in clinical research,” said Professor Robert C. Gallo, co-founder of GVN and the current Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  “Additionally, she has been, and will continue to be, a medical science thought leader for the field of clinical virology and a powerful presence in Australia and globally as a scientific leader of the Doherty Institute, quickly establishing this GVN Center as one of excellence. I know all in the GVN are very happy and proud to honor her.”

“I congratulate Sharon Lewin for such a well-deserved award,” said GVN President Professor Christian Bréchot.  “Indeed, this recognizes her major scientific achievements and her full commitment to both the fight against HIV and support for the Global Virus Network.”

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)
The 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 57 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 33 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 and follow on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews.

Abbott partners with the Global Virus Network on a new coalition to prepare for future pandemics

In late 2019, a group of infectious disease experts had an idea— to create a coalition among leaders in the public and private sectors that could help prepare for how the global health community responds to emerging pandemics and collaborate to end major viral pandemics.

As the initial program formed between Abbott and Global Virus Network (GVN) – a global coalition of medical virologists – the group quickly realized they would be developing a blueprint for pandemic preparedness, while in the middle of one.

“We are seeing first-hand the urgent need for collaboration when it comes to a novel virus that becomes a pandemic,” says Christian Bréchot, M.D., Ph.D., and president of the Global Virus Network (GVN). “By having this coalition in place, we are essentially creating the instructional manual for how we respond to emerging pandemics, while also creating the vehicle to do so.”

A global virus coalition

The GVN Corporate Centers of Excellence Coalition was first created in late 2019 as a way to bring together the world’s foremost virologists and prominent companies to catalyze and facilitate the development, evaluation and testing of diagnositcs, therapeutics, treatments and vaccines for viral epidemics and pandemics that pose a threat to public health.

As a leader in infectious disease testing and blood screening, Abbott joined as the inaugural member of the coalition.

“We know that every day matters when it comes to responding to a pandemic, which is why collaboration and preparedness are critical,” said Gavin Cloherty, Ph.D., head of Infectious Disease Research, Diagnostics, Abbott. “With this partnership, we are creating a SWAT team of highly trained scientists to share knowledge, techniques and innovative tests and technologies to better understand both existing and emerging viruses.”

The collaboration with GVN plans to focus on three initial areas:

  • Strengthening preparedness
  • Sharing research on known pathogens and emerging pathogens
  • Providing insights on the potential impact of this research

Collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic

In the early weeks of the pandemic, Abbott brought together a team of its scientists to develop diagnostic and antibody tests to detect the virus and the antibodies that develop after an infection.

One of the key elements for developing these tests were virus samples to ensure the accuracy of our test. Through the Corporate Centers of Excellence program, Abbott collaborated with GVN to identify additional virus samples in different patient populations and has worked with GVN to determine new locations to conduct research.

The coalition is also developing the framework to collaborate and share research on the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 ) virus. Abbott and GVN are establishing a SARS-CoV-2 biobank – or repository that stores biology samples – to study and validate antibody tests.

Planning for the future

From Smallpox, to HIV or the latest efforts for COVID-19, history has shown the impact infectious diseases can have and the need to stay ahead of emerging viruses.

The Centers of Excellence will take learnings developed for the fight against COVID-19 to prepare for future pandemics.

“In the early days of the pandemic, data-sharing was critical to helping the research community understand the virus. We can take the infrastructure from our SARS-CoV-2 biobank in development and use it as a template for future emerging viruses,” said Cloherty.

By developing an integrated global network of scientists and industry leaders, the healthcare community can work together to help in the fight against our current pandemic and quickly respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.

 

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 55 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 33 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

 

GVN MEDIA CONTACT
Nora Samaranayake
Phone:  410-706-1966
Email:    [email protected]

 

Prominent Australian and Russian Research Institutions Join Global Virus Network to Combat Viral Diseases

Center for Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics of the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) at Griffith University, Australia and the Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune and Biological Products of the Russian Academy of Sciences Join GVN at Critical Time for Information Sharing

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, September 8, 2020: The Global Virus Network (GVN), comprising foremost experts around the world in every class of virus-causing disease in humans and some animals, , today announced the addition of the Center for Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics (EVIT) of the Menzies Health Institute Queensland at Griffith University, Australia and the Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune and Biological Products of the Russian Academy of Sciences as its newest Centers of Excellence. The two new institutions bring GVN’s total number of Centers of Excellence to 57, along with 10 affiliates in 33 countries.

“We are pleased to have these premier institutions join us from Australia and Russia at this critical time in the global pandemic,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, who is President of the GVN and Professor at the University of South Florida.  “EVIT will strengthen our depth and collaborative network in arbovirology, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, Southeast Asia, India, South America and South Africa. The Chumakov Center has unique expertise in varying areas of virology with many global connections, making it Russia’s leading research organization in the field of virology.”

EVIT, as part of the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, provides a critical mass of scientists and clinicians with distinct areas of expertise in emerging arbovirus diseases. The Center has excellent knowledge of viral pathogenesis and related inflammatory diseases and strong capabilities in developing treatments for emerging viruses such as chikungunya (CHIKV), Ross River (RRV), dengue, Zika (ZIKV), Japanese encephalitis (JEV) and West Nile (WNV) viruses.  Additionally, EVIT focuses on emerging viruses such as Hendra and SARS-CoV-2, and established viruses such as influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus. The Center has a strong emphasis on both basic and translational research, which has led to several major breakthroughs in understanding how viruses cause disease. The GVN Center is led by Suresh Mahalingam, PhD, FASM, FAAM, Professor and Director, Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics Group, Principal Research Leader and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at EVIT.

“GVN has the ability to contribute to the activities of major players in world health such as CEPI and GAVI, which will open up additional opportunities for our research center to establish new collaborations,” said Dr. Mahalingam. “Further, through our GVN membership, we look forward to enhancing our leadership of arbovirus research and disease preparedness in the Asia-Pacific region; establishing new collaborations with fellow GVN members; facilitating advanced training of students and researchers from the Asia-Pacific region; and, enhancing technology and knowledge transfer within the GVN.”

The Chumakov Center conducts a broad range of studies of different human and animal viruses and manufactures polio, rabies and tick-borne encephalitis vaccines, supplying up to 70% of national demand in these products. Yellow fever vaccines produced at the Chumakov Center cover more than a half of UNICEF’s Eliminating Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) Strategy, supporting immunization in more than 50 countries.  The Chumakov Center contains the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional reference laboratory for polio preforming epidemiological surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis and polio as a part of Global Polio Laboratory Network for Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Center also acts as a WHO Collaborative Center for Poliomyelitis and Enterovirus Surveillance and Research. The Center is led by Aydar Ishmukhametov, MD, DSc, Director General of the Chumakov Center and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Our expertise in research, preclinical and clinical development and manufacturing of antiviral vaccines will be useful for GVN members.,” said Dr. Ishmukhametov.  “We look forward to collaborating with the world’s leading virology experts and for participation of our younger scientists in virology training programs through the GVN.”

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 57 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 33 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
410-706-1966
[email protected]

Six Internationally Renowned Virus Research Institutions Join the Global Virus Network to Combat Viral Diseases

GVN Adds Four Centers of Excellence and Two Affiliates from India, Peru, Republic of Uzbekistan, South Korea, United States and Zimbabwe

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, October 24, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 52 Centers of Excellence and 9 Affiliates in 32 countries comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans and animals, announced today the addition of four new Centers of Excellence including, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (An Institution of eminence deemed to be University), The Tropical Medicine Institute “Alexander von Humboldt” of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, the Korea National Institute of Health’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and two Affiliates, the Research Institute of Virology Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Antiviral Pharmacology Laboratory and Clinical Trials Research Center Virology Program at the University of Zimbabwe. The announcement was made by Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN and Robert Gallo, MD, Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the GVN.

“The GVN continues to serve as a catalyst uniquely connecting top virus research institutions from around the world to build collaborative, effective alliances and eradicate viral threats. In fact, these six Centers and Affiliates perfectly illustrate this concept, combining Centers with highly complementary skills, from all over the world,” said Bréchot, who is also Professor at the University of South Florida. “We support current organizations such as the World Health Organization and stand ready to serve as global first-responders to dangerous viruses and operate as an international clearinghouse to educate, inform and disseminate critical information to governments, health organizations, healthcare practitioners and the public-at-large.”

“Since HIV/AIDS first appeared, I strongly have believed mankind will best be served if the world’s leading virologists are organized and better equipped to deal with existing and new viral threats,” said Gallo, who 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. “These diverse new members of the GVN add depth of expertise and global reach to our network. They will help us better combat viral threats and train the next generation of virologists.”

The Manipal Institute of Virology (MIV) GVN Center of Excellence is led by Arunkumar Govindakarnavar, PhD, MSc, BSc, Professor and Director, MIV, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). MIV is a regional center for diagnostic virology and research, and the regional reference laboratory for Influenza viruses and an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Grade I Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) supported by the Department of Health Research (DHR), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) Apex referral laboratory for arboviruses, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and Government of India (GOI). Apart from disease diagnostics, MIV supports the state and national health services for outbreak investigations. MIV has established 33 surveillance centers in hospitals across 16 districts of 10 states capable of detecting and responding to viruses and bacteria.

“MIV was instrumental in confirming more than 150 viral outbreaks, and closely involved in outbreaks including the Nipah virus, Zika virus, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, Hepatitis A virus and Kyasanur Forest Disease,” said Arunkumar. “We look forward to sharing our experiences with the GVN and launching new collaborations to advance the field in our area of expertise in virology.”

The Tropical Medicine Institute “Alexander von Humboldt” of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia GVN Center of Excellence is led by Eduardo Gotuzzo, MD, FACP, FIDSA, FESCMID, Emeritus Professor, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. The Institute is multidisciplinary, specializing in infectious and tropical diseases, with global leadership that conducts research, innovates and diversifies, and promotes public policies and technology transfer contributing to Peru’s development. The Institute specializes in HTLV and its clinical complications, HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral drug therapy, human rhinovirus, hepatitis B and some C viruses, and arboviruses such as Zika virus.

“We have a large HTLV patient cohort and are the country’s most experienced in treating patients with HIV/AIDS, which unfortunately continues to grow due to the significant migration of people from Venezuela,” said Gotuzzo. “The GVN will provide a unique opportunity to advance our studies and international collaborations as well as unique training opportunities.”

The Korea National Institute of Health’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research GVN Center of Excellence is led by Youngmee Jee MD, PhD, Director, Center for Infectious Diseases Research (CID), Korea National Institute of Health (KNIH). KNIH is the only national public health research institution to produce scientific evidence to shape public health policies. The CID, one of three research centers at KNIH, is responsible for research on infectious diseases caused by viral and bacterial pathogens with four primary goals: (1) to enhance the national capacity responding to infectious disease threats, (2) to efficiently control emerging and acute/chronic infectious diseases, (3) to explore infectious diseases affecting human health in relation to climate change, (4) to establish national and international networks through collaborative studies on infectious diseases, and (5) to collect and manage human pathogen resources in Korea.

“I participated in the GVN’s international meeting last June in Barcelona and found the sessions and shared expertise very valuable,” said Jee. “Our broad experience with various global research intuitions such as the World Health Organization and fellow Korean GVN Center of Excellence, the International Vaccine Institute, will deepen GVN’s expertise and advance basic and applied research on emerging viruses and acute and chronic viruses through new collaborations with GVN members.”

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University GVN Center of Excellence is led by Founding Director Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School, Senior Associate in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Wyss Institute leverages recent insights into how nature builds, controls and manufactures to develop new engineering innovations – a new field of research the Institute refers to as Biologically Inspired Engineering. By emulating biological principles of self-assembly, organization and regulation, the Institute is developing disruptive technology solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics and manufacturing, which are translated into commercial products and therapies through the formation of new startups and corporate alliances. The Institute’s unique Organ-on-a-Chip (Organ Chip) technology enables modeling of human tissues with in vivo-like architectures and physiologies to study viral infection, propagation, evolution, patient-to-patient transmission and host responses in vitro. Wyss Institute researchers are leveraging human Organ Chips and a variety of its other core technologies in a highly multi-disciplinary approach to create rapid, sensitive, and highly specific diagnostics for detection of viruses, broad spectrum anti-virus vaccines, new antiviral therapeutics, novel drug- and gene-delivering viral vectors, and, culture-free viral infectivity assays.

“We offer the GVN a truly unique skill set in bioengineering and technology innovation that will nicely complement the more classic virology focus of most other members of the network, as well as numerous powerful enabling technologies that GVN members should find extremely useful,” said Ingber. “We look forward to the GVN helping us to identify relevant funding opportunities and sources of clinical samples, and to team with us to build stronger consortia around specific problems, and if possible, to provide support for fellows and trainees.”

The Research Institute of Virology Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which is led by Musabaev Erkin Isakovich, PhD, Professor, Research Institute of Virology of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan, is an Affiliate through GVN Centers of Excellence, Istituto Nazionale Tumori “Fondazione Pascale” National Cancer Institute, Russian Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza (SRII) and Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The Institute comprises a laboratory of new and re-emerging viral infections (in the structure of National Influenza Center), a reference laboratory, scientific departments, department of molecular-genetic analysis and cultural research, an international department, in-patient department (hospital), including 200 beds to treat infectious disease patients, laboratory-diagnostic and auxiliary departments and rooms and an ambulatory-out-patient diagnostical hepatology center. The Institute’s expertise includes viral hepatitis, liver cirrhosis with viral etiology, HIV/AIDS, new and re-emerging infections, influenza, and intestinal infections.

“We are pleased to join with three renowned GVN Centers of Excellence to become an Affiliate member of the GVN,” said Isakovich. “The GVN will provide opportunities in information sharing and collaborations on research, grants, projects and training initiatives, particularly in the area of scientific exchanges between fellows.”

The Antiviral Pharmacology Laboratory and Clinical Trials Research Center Virology Program at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), which is led by Charles Chiedza Maponga, PharmD, MHPE, Director, GVN Affiliate at UZ and Justen Manasa, PhD, Co-Director, Virology, Genetics, is an Affiliate through GVN Center of Excellence, University at Buffalo HIV and HCV Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory. UZ is home to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) AIDS Clinical Trials Unit that conducts research with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) HIV Research networks including the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), International Maternal Pediatric and Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) and Microbial Trials Network (MTN). In addition, UZ has a NIAID HIV Clinical Pharmacology Specialty Laboratory. Research priorities include HIV, HCV, HPV and other global virus research agendas. The Antiviral Pharmacology Laboratory is home to a Fogarty-supported HIV Clinical Pharmacology Research Program that is conducted in collaboration with the University at Buffalo. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic has continued to impact developing countries, the need for training in HIV/AIDS Clinical Pharmacology has also expanded in scope, including in clinical expertise such as cancer, behavioral sciences, Alzheimer’s disease, nanomedicine and pediatrics.

“We have a productive collaboration with the GVN Center of Excellence University of Buffalo HIV and HCV Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory and are thrilled to grow our relationship into the GVN as an Affiliate,” said Maponga and Manasa. “Not only do we have a regional capacity to substantively contribute to global research through the GVN, but we welcome training exchange programs that expand our breadth of expertise.”

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 52 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]

University of Nebraska Medical Center, West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens and Colombia-Wisconsin One-Health Consortium Join Renowned Global Virus Network to Combat Viral Diseases

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, November 13, 2018: The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 45 Centers of Excellence and 7 Affiliates in 29 countries comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans, announced today the addition of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the University of Ghana and Colombia-Wisconsin One-Health Consortium (CWOHC) as its newest Centers of Excellence. The announcement was made by Robert Gallo, MD, GVN Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor and Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, GVN President.

“We are very pleased to add these three valuable institutions to our growing international network,” said Dr. Gallo, who is also The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence. “UNMC, among other things, will deepen our expertise in improved therapies against HIV and biosecurity while WACCBIP and CWOHC will extend GVN’s reach in Africa and South America respectively.”

“Joining these new Centers to our network is an important step for GVN’s development,” said Dr. Bréchot, who is also Professor at the University of South Florida and Executive Director of the Romark Company Institute for Medical Research. “Indeed, the GVN is reinforcing its expertise in biosecurity by merging Centers such as the UNMC to those working in the most basic aspects of research on human viruses, and the GVN is reinforcing its presence in Africa and South America by integrating WACCBIP and CWOHC, thus allowing a strong global approach to the major threats posed by several human viruses.”

The UNMC GVN Center of Excellence will be led by Christopher Kratochvil, MD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research, UNMC, Vice President for Research, Nebraska Medicine, Chief Medical Officer, UNeHealth and Howard Gendelman, MD, Margaret R. Larson Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases Chair, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience. UNMC has a long history of significant viral research activities, leading a unique array of initiatives that include innovative basic and translational research, a special pathogens clinical trials network and multiple global public health initiatives. In addition to research, the new Center promotes capacity building through onsite training at UNMC, external collaborations with major U.S. and global pharmaceutical facilities and the capacity to produce products onsite and in supporting institutions located in resource-poor nations. UNMC also composes the Global Center for Health Security (GCHS), which includes one of the largest clinical biocontainment units in the country and is constructing the federal government’s 20-bed national quarantine center merging biosecurity and biodefense initiatives.

“We look forward to working with the GVN to establish and foster further collaborations domestically and abroad, in multiple domains to include drug development, research, training and education in the areas of biocontainment and antiviral therapeutics,” said Drs. Kratochvil and Gendelman. “The breadth of activities from both of our organizations is significant, and significantly overlapping. We also look forward to working with the GVN to develop medicines for the treatment, prevention and elimination of viral diseases through the use of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s antiviral production facilities.”

The WACCBIP’s GVN Center of Excellence will be led by Gordon Awandare, BSc, MPhil, PhD, Unit Director of the GVN-WACCBIP, Associate Professor and Director of WACCBIP, University of Ghana and Osbourne Quaye, BSc, MSc, PhD, Center Director of the GVN-WACCIBIP and Head, Virology Laboratory, WACCBIP, University of Ghana. WACCBIP’s research focuses on the areas of disease pathogenesis and immunity, pathogen biology and genomics, host/pathogen interactions, molecular diagnosis, molecular epidemiology for surveillance, drug discovery and vaccine development. WACCBIP trains high-level health professionals and biomedical scientists on cell and molecular biology of infectious pathogens through MPhil, PhD and post-doctoral programs and workshops, and serves as a core facility with state-of-the-art biomedical laboratories to support infectious disease research in the sub-region. The Centre also has a Biomedical High-Performance Computing Unit that provides cluster computing services to promote teaching, research, and dissemination of information among health professionals and academics, and serves as a focal point for enhancing collaboration among biomedical scientists and biotechnology companies.

“We look forward to serving as a resource to our colleagues in the GVN,” said Drs. Awandare and Quaye. “Further, we look to the GVN to support our training programs that foster world-class research excellence with national, regional and international partnerships, thereby improving diagnosis, prevention, and control of diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The CWOHC GVN Center of Excellence, a collaboration between the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Ruta N Corporation of Colombia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be led by Jorge Osorio, DVM, PhD, Professor of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CWOHC focuses on emerging viral diseases including the characterization of Zika virus, dengue virus, other arboviruses, and human and animal influenza viruses. CWOHC also studies the development of novel vaccines for dengue, influenza, Zika, rabies, hand-foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. To characterize host responses and protection, CWOHC developed animal models for a variety of pathogens including Zika, chikungunya, dengue, influenza, monkeypox and enteroviruses.

“The University of Wisconsin’s extensive research collaborations of studying emerging viral diseases with Colombia dates back more than 47 years,” said Dr. Osorio. “Colombia is a unique country that will be a terrific collaborator for other members of the GVN. Its strategic geographical location, the combination of the tropical environment, megadiversity, vast range of microclimates and ecosystems, including the Amazonia and Orinoquia, the mountains and cordilleras, the Sierras [Nevada of Santa Marta, de la Macarena, Perijá] and the two oceans generate an enormous amount of biological research and discovery. In addition, we look forward to opening doors for regional partnerships and strengthening local networks to build and improve scientific capacity in South America and Colombia.”

For a listing of all GVN Member institutions, click here.

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 42 Centers of Excellence and 7 Affiliates in 27 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.

Global Virus Network (GVN) Centers of Excellence Contribute Expertise to Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala, India

In the wake of the outbreak, the Government of Kerala is fast-tracking the launch of the Institute of Advanced Virology, which will house a unit of the GVN

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, June 5, 2018: Several of the Global Virus Network’s (GVN) Centers of Excellence have been researching Nipah virus (NiV) and are currently contributing expertise to the outbreak in the Indian state of Kerala.  India’s latest deadly NiV outbreak began in early May.  The GVN represents 41 Centers of Excellence and 7 affiliates in 26 countries and comprises foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans.

“GVN members are providing scientific, clinical and epidemiological expertise in addition to reagents to laboratories in the field,” said Prof. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN.  “Indian government agencies responding to the NiV outbreak have done a fantastic job implementing quarantine procedures and other effective forms of infection control.”

According to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of June 2, 2018, there are 19 reported patient cases, 18 of which were confirmed in the laboratory, and 17 of which are deceased. Clinical presentation of NiV ranges from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.  Death rates, as in this outbreak and the 2015 outbreak in the Philippines, can exceed 80%.

“There is a great need to advance the science in the study of Nipah virus,” said Robert C. Gallo, MD, who is Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Martha Gudeslky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “Currently, there is no human or animal treatment or vaccine.  GVN members look forward to working with organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to quickly advance effective therapeutics and vaccine candidates.”

“A targeted recombinant human monoclonal antibody therapy, which is in the process of being brought to Kerala, has proven to be effective in animal models and has passed a Phase I clinical trial,” said Benhur Lee, MD, Professor, Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a Global Virus Network (GVN) Center of Excellence.  “Further, there are several forms of recombinant vaccines proven to be effective in animal models.  We, and other members of the GVN, look forward to working with local and international organizations to advance the science.”

NiV was first detected during a major infectious disease outbreak in Malaysia in 1998-9 and named after the Sungai Nipah village on the banks of the Nipah River in Malaysia. Studies from past human infection outbreaks in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, show that the virus can be transmitted to humans by three different routes: 1) from bats to humans who are in contact with virus-contaminated material (e.g., date palm sap); 2) from intermediate hosts such as pigs and horses; and, 3) from infected humans.

“We need to better understand what is causing Nipah virus spillover from animals and the exact transmission route for the index of human cases so that we can prevent future outbreaks,” said Linfa Wang, PhD, Professor & Director, Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, a Center of Excellence applicant of the GVN.  “There are potential unknown intermediate and amplifying hosts in different ecological, social, cultural and farming settings that we need to identify.  We can also help develop rapid diagnostic tests for developing nations and provide education guidelines and technical guidance.”

Since the outbreak, the Government of Kerala announced that it will fast-track the founding of Kerala’s Institute of Advanced Virology (IAV) at the Life Sciences Park at Thonnakkal. IAV, which aims to open in December, will house a unit of the GVN.  IAV will comprise eight laboratories for advanced research in clinical virology, viral diagnostics, viral vaccines, anti-viral drug research, viral applications, viral epidemiology, vector dynamics, virus genomics, bioinformatics and general virology.

“We are pleased to be working with the government of Kerala in founding the IAV,” said MV Pillai, MD, Clinical Professor of Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University and a Senior Advisor to the GVN.  “Through IAV, the GVN will bring world-class expertise to the state of Kerala, so that Kerala can begin to address its own epidemics, such as this Nipah virus outbreak, and start to contribute to virology at an international level.”

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 medical 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, in partnership with the Fondation Mérieux (FM) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), will convene the 10th International Global Virus Network Meeting on Eradication and Control of (Re-)Emerging Viruses in Annecy, France November 28-30. More information can be found at www.gvn.org.