A Statement From the Leadership of the Global Virus Network on the Passing of Renowned Chinese Virologist Yi Zeng

A top cancer researcher and leader in public service is mourned

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, July 23, 2020:  The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of the world’s preeminent human and animal virologists from 55 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 32 countries, collectively mourns the passing of Professor Yi Zeng, MD, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, former President of the Chinese Academy of the Preventive  Medicine and former Dean of the College of Life Science and Bioengineering at Beijing University of Technology. Prof. Zeng was best known for establishing the relationship of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and nasopharynx cancer, developing EBV serologic tests for nasopharynx cancer early diagnosis, and discovering the first example of co-carcinogenesis in humans, when the combination of EBV  infection and particular carcinogenic products derived from Chinese medicines and foods common to Southern China caused nasopharyngeal carcinoma.  Prof. Zeng was a founding Center Director of China’s Global Virus Network Center of Excellence and hosted GVN’s 7th International Meeting in Beijing, China in 2015.

“Prof. Yi Zeng’s loss is a tremendous one not just for China, but all of his colleagues around the world,” said Robert Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the Global Virus Network (GVN). “In 2012, IHV faculty unanimously voted to honor Prof. Zeng for his lifetime of leadership in virology and cancer research.  We are saddened by this immense loss and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

“We will deeply miss Prof. Yi Zeng, whose scientific vision and commitment to the GVN have been at the heart of the cooperation with China,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of GVN and Professor at the University of South Florida.

“We are all saddened by the passing of Prof. Yi Zeng, the former president of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, which is the predecessor of China CDC,” said George F. Gao, DVM, DPHIL (OXON), Director General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). “He was a true founder of modern Chinese disease control and prevention and public health infrastructure. He will be remembered as a great scientist, a good friend and a thoughtful mentor.”

Prof. Zeng made great achievements by pioneering, two important virology research areas in China, including, tumor virology and HIV,” said Yiming Shao, MD, the Chief Expert on AIDS, China CDC, who was Prof. Zeng’s first Doctor Degree student.  “Prof. Zeng transformed tumor virology through early diagnosis of cancer, thereby saving countless lives.  He also identified the first HIV/AIDS cases and developed initial diagnostic tools in China while educating his countrymen on AIDS prevention.”

In the early 1970s, Prof. Zeng researched the relationship of the EBV and nasopharynx cancer, established a series of EBV serologic test methods for nasopharynx cancer and increased the diagnosis rate of nasopharynx cancer at the early stage from 20-30% to 80-90%. His serological index could predict the occurrence possibility of nasopharynx cancer 5 to 10 years in advance.  He discovered carcinogens in Chinese herbal medicines and foods in areas with a high incidence of nasopharynx cancer in conjunction with EBV to cause nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Prof. Zeng was also the first to establish cell lines from nasopharynx cancers with high differentiation and low differentiation and was the first in the world to prove that the human fetal nasopharyngeal mucus tissues infected with EBV, under cooperative function of carcinogen TPA and butyric acid, could develop human nasopharynx cancer in rodents. This finding provided the first direct evidence that the EB virus could induce nasopharynx cancer and at the same time provided models for studying multiple factors of nasopharynx cancer pathogenesis and their mechanisms.  Since 1984, Prof. Zeng conducted research on HIV and AIDS and proved the introduction of HIV into China by identifying the first cases of AIDS and HIV infection and isolating the first HIV-1 virus in the country. He isolated the first Chinese HIV-1 virus in 1987 and established the rapid diagnosis method for HIV.  Prof. Zeng, with his late wife Prof. Zelin Li, also discovered Chinese herbal medicines that had a high inhibitory activity of HIV replication.

“For over five decades, Prof. Zeng was a leading virologist in China,” said Lishan Su, PhD, Professor of Immunology and Virology. Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Prof. Su honored Prof. Zeng with a special lecture when he received the IHV’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in Public Service. “His pioneering work in basic/clinical research on human viruses, including EBV and HIV and on public health policy, has saved millions of human lives. Prof. Zeng also played a critical role in establishing/leading the first institute of modern medical virology to train a generation of outstanding molecular virologists. He has been respected by all, will be missed and remembered in China and around the world.”

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.

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 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
410-706-1966
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

Cleveland Clinic and The University of Southern Denmark Join Global Virus Network to Combat Viral Diseases

GVN’s latest additions further bolster its 55 Centers for Excellence, expanding knowledge of viruses and treatment

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, Tuesday, July 7, 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 Cleveland Clinic and the University of Southern Denmark, including the Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau, as its two newest Centers of Excellence. 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.

“We welcome the inclusion of Cleveland Clinic and the University of Southern Denmark to our network,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of GVN and Professor at the University of South Florida.  “The addition of the renowned Cleveland Clinic will provide expertise and collaboration opportunities for the greater GVN on matters relating to viral-host interactions, including antiviral drug development, immune modulatory therapies and vaccine development.  The University of Southern Denmark will provide a very important contribution to novel approaches for vaccination, and also, it will further increase our outreach in Africa through the Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau.”

Cleveland Clinic, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, is a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Cleveland Clinic’s health system includes Lerner Research Institute, an integrated research institute performing investigations in basic, translational, and clinical research; Cleveland Clinic Florida Research and Innovation Center in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, which is dedicated to the discovery and advancement of innovative translational research, focuses on immuno-oncology and infectious diseases; and, the newly added Global Virus Network Center in Innate Immunity Research.  Cleveland Clinic has a 30-year history of groundbreaking advances in interferon and cytokine research. Robert Silverman, PhD, Professor at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute will lead this GVN Center.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with other centers in the GVN to work toward fundamental discoveries in host-virus interactions, through shared expertise in a wide range of viral infections,” said Dr. Silverman.  “Furthermore, novel antiviral strategies developed through the GVN may be implemented at Cleveland Clinic.”

The University of Southern Denmark has campuses in seven cities across Denmark and has been an established university for over 50 years. It has recently, as the first university in Denmark, made the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the focal point for its work as a university. The Bandim Health Project is affiliated with the Department of Clinical Research, which constitutes the university affiliation for all researchers and teachers at Odense University Hospital, Odense. The University of Southern Denmark was selected because of its long history of research into infections and vaccinations. Its key scientific contributions to the field are observations that intensity of exposure is the main determinant of severe viral infections and that vaccines have non-specific effects, affecting susceptibility toward a broad range of pathogens.  The Bandim Health Project works with population-based health research in Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s poorest countries in West Africa. Christine Stabell Benn, MD, PhD, DMSc, Professor in Global Health at the Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, will lead this GVN Center.

“We are honored to be part of this eminent network,” said Dr. Benn. “Vaccines and their non-specific effects may be a very important tool against emerging viral treats, allowing us to bridge the time until specific vaccines can be developed. Much more work needs to be done to understand the non-specific effects, both from an epidemiological and an immunological perspective. As a member of GVN, we will benefit greatly from interacting with the world’s leading medical virologists.”

The GVN 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.

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 nonprofit 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
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

The Global Virus Network’s Position Regarding the Risk of COVID-19 Transmission by Asymptomatic Infected Subjects

BALTIMORE, MD, June 12, 2020: According to the Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of the world’s preeminent human and animal virologists from 53 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 32 countries, whether or not asymptomatic COVID-19 infected subjects can transmit the virus has tremendous impact on the global public health strategy against SARS-CoV-2 viral infection. In this context, the recent statement on that topic offered by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the discussions around this statement clearly provide an excellent opportunity to discuss this major issue.

We understand that there is confusion between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases. Pre-symptomatic transmission has been defined as the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from an infected person to a secondary patient before the source patient has developed symptoms. Published studies have shown substantial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 before symptom onset; indeed, importantly, shedding of the virus may begin 2 to 3 days before the appearance of the first symptoms (1), and this is in contrast to what had been observed with SARS-CoV-1. Although virus shedding has not been quantitated, specimens (71%) from pre-symptomatic persons had viable virus by culture 1 to 6 days before the development of symptoms in a nursing facility (2). After symptom onset, viral loads decreased monotonically. The proportion of pre-symptomatic transmission ranged from 46% to 55% (1). In general, as expected, the reported proportion of pre-symptomatic transmission is higher in those geographical areas where diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2 have been widely used. Pre-symptomatic transmission occurs through generation of respiratory droplets, as well as, possibly, aerosol or through indirect transmission (3-5). In contrast to the pre-symptomatic transmission, it has been a challenge to quantify the contributions of asymptomatic individuals to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (3). Lack of quantitative analysis of viral shedding also hindered in evaluating the role of asymptomatic individuals in viral transmission. However, clinical studies showed that asymptomatic individuals had substantial viral shedding for potential transmission (2, 6). For example, a recent study clearly pointed to viral transmission by asymptomatic individuals (6). Certainly, comprehensive studies are required for quantitative analysis of viral shedding, viremia, and innate immune responses in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals.

Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 pandemic is expanding because it is difficult to trace mild or pre-symptomatic infections. We have learned a very important lesson from the initial response to the outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2. For example, most countries worldwide had delayed state and local responses, thus allowing SARS-CoV-2 to spread rapidly (7). A critical problem was testing: symptom-based screening alone failed to detect a high proportion of infectious cases and was not enough to control transmission in this setting. Consequently, many countries have been shut down to prevent a rapidly expanding epidemic because only isolating people who are sick might not be enough to contain the epidemic. In contrary, several countries, such as Australia, South Korea, Germany, Singapore, and Taiwan, managed to contain the virus early and have worked hard to keep it suppressed with efficient testing and contact tracing system.

Until vaccines are widely available, available infection prevention approaches are case isolation, contact tracing and quarantine, physical distancing, decontamination, and hygiene measures. To implement the right measures at the right time, it is of crucial importance to understand the routes and timings of transmission. It is certain that the existence of pre-symptomatic transmission would present difficult challenges to contact tracing. More inclusive criteria for contact tracing to capture potential transmission events 2 to 3 days before symptom onset should be urgently considered for effective control of the outbreak as has been done in Hong Kong and mainland China since late February (1). Although WHO recently clarified its position on COVID-19 asymptomatic transmission, all these scientific findings emphasize that efficient control of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is a critical intervention strategy for COVID-19. To support this, a massive testing with contact tracing system should be provided for the detection of viral shedding in asymptomatic individuals.

Reference

  1. He X, Lau EHY, Wu P, et al. Temporal dynamics in viral shedding and transmissibility of COVID-19. Nat Med 26, 672–675. 2020.
  2. Arons MM, Hatfield KM, Reddy SC, et al. Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections and transmission in a skilled nursing facility. NEJM 2020 382:2081-2090.
  3. Gandhi M, Yokoe DS, Havlir DV. Asymptomatic transmission, the Achilles’ Heel of current strategies to control Covid-19; NEJM 2020 382:2158-2160.
  4. Asadi S, Wexler AS, Cappa CD, Barreda S, Bouvier NM, Ristenpart WD. Aerosol emission and superemission during human speech increase with voice loudness. Sci Rep 2019 9:2348.
  5. Hijnen D, Marzano AV, Eyerich K, GeurtsvanKessel C, Giménez-Arnau AM, Joly P, et al. SARS-CoV-2 transmission from presymptomatic meeting attendee, Germany. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 Jul. DOI: 10.3201/eid2608.201235.
  6. Chau NVV, Lam VT, et al. The natural history and transmission potential of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, Clinical Infectious Diseases, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa711.
  7. Schneider EC. Failing the test — the tragic data gap undermining the U.S. pandemic response. NEJM. 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2014836.

Global Virus Network Suggests Oral Polio Vaccine May Provide Temporary Protection Against COVID-19

World-renowned scientists publish strong argument for the live attenuated vaccine in Journal Science

BALTIMORE, MD, June 11, 2020: The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of the world’s preeminent human and animal virologists from 53 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 32 countries, published a viewpoint in Science today that the stimulation of innate immunity by live attenuated vaccines in general, and oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in particular, could provide temporary protection against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“We know specific interventions such as vaccines against a novel virus that can cause pandemic will take years to prove they work, are safe, durable, inexpensive and readily available for the world,” says Dr. Robert Gallo, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder & Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder & Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the Global Virus Network,  “Clearly, these vaccines need to go forward.  However, until there are proven efficacy, safety and global availability of the classical vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, we believe our strategy relying on simple, safe, oral, inexpensive, live vaccines will have a broad benefit against COVID-19. This can also likely be used in future pandemics, particularly of respiratory viruses, by inducing innate immunity, which is immediate and not as limiting as a specific vaccine.”

OPV is a live attenuated vaccine that was safely used in the United States from 1963-2000 and is still being used in more than 140 countries.  Large-scale clinical studies of OPV for nonspecific prevention of diseases were carried out in the 1960s and 1970s. These involved more than 60,000 individuals and showed that OPV was effective against influenza virus infection, reducing morbidity 3.8-fold on average. OPV vaccination also had a therapeutic effect on genital herpes simplex virus infections, accelerating healing. OPV not only demonstrated positive effects against viral infections, but also oncolytic properties, both by directly destroying tumor cells and by activating cellular immunity toward tumors. More recent studies confirm these broad protective effects of OPV.

“Repeated immunization has an additive effect on stimulation of non-specific protection despite antibodies induced by the first vaccination,” says Dr. Konstantin Chumakov, Associate Director for Research for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Vaccines Research and Review and a GVN Center Director.  “Further, recent reports indicate that COVID-19 may result in suppressed innate immune responses, and thus, their stimulation by OPV immunization might increase resistance to SARS-CoV-2 as well as a broad spectrum of other pathogens.”

“The GVN serves as a catalyst to bring together the world’s foremost virologists,” says Dr. Christian Bréchot, President of the GVN, and a Professor at the University of South Florida.  “We are pleased to bring this idea to fruition, and we look forward to working with varying nations to initiate clinical trials.”

In addition to Dr. Robert Gallo and Dr. Konstantin Chumakov, the authors of the viewpoint in Science include Dr. Christine Benn of OPEN and the Danish Institute for Advanced Study, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark and Dr. Peter Aaby of the Bandim Health Project, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, who are both renowned experts in clinical vaccine research, and Dr. Shyam Kottilil professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Care and Research Division of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.  Dr. Kottilil, as the colleague of Dr. Gallo and Dr. Chumakov, will be the chief clinician operating the clinical trials studying OPV against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Pandemics are unpredictable and have devastating impact on human lives,” says Dr. Kottilil.  “Our strategy allows a rapid, simple, low-cost, global approach to curtail the present and future pandemics.”

“Studies in low-income countries have shown that OPV is associated with strong reductions in child mortality even if there was no circulating polio virus,” say Dr. Christine Benn and Dr. Peter Aaby. “In Denmark we found that OPV-vaccinated children had lower risk of getting hospitalized for respiratory infections. We think that OPV may have the same beneficial non-specific effect among adults. We will soon be starting a randomized trial including 3,400 adults above 50 years of age in Guinea-Bissau to assess whether OPV can reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other infections.”

“OPV has a strong safety record, the existence of more than one serotype that could be used sequentially to prolong protection against SARS-CoV-2, a low cost, ease of administration and much availability,” says Dr. Gallo.  “This is not complicated, the science is there to support the idea, and we need to act fast.”

About the Global Virus Network
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 10 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
410-706-1966
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

TWO CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE OF THE GLOBAL VIRUS NETWORK INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY AN ANTIMICROBIAL TECHNOLOGY THAT ERADICATES SARS-CoV-2 ON SURFACES FOR MORE THAN SIX WEEKS

Global Virus Network Also Advances The Study Of The Oral Polio Vaccine As A Preventive Measure Against SARS-CoV-2

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, June 4, 2020:  The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of the world’s preeminent human and animal virologists from 53 Centers of Excellence and 10 Affiliates in 32 countries, announced that two of its Centers of Excellence, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia and the Rega Medical Research Institute of KU Leuven, Belgium, demonstrated that a BIOPROTECT™  formulation by ViaClean Technologies eradicates SARS-CoV-2 (the unique coronavirus that causes COVID-19) on surfaces and provides continuous residual viricidal activity for more than six weeks.  The announcement was made today by Dr. Christian Bréchot, President of the GVN.

The Doherty and Rega Institutes both used state-of-the-art high containment virology facilities to independently conduct extensive tests on a BIOPROTECT™ formulation to study its effects on SARS-CoV-2 infectivity on various surfaces.  The standard ASTM E1053 test methodology was adapted to assess SARS-CoV-2 viricidal efficacy of microbicides on environmental surfaces.  GVN scientists at the Doherty Institute under the direction of Prof. Damian Purcell, and at the Rega Institute under the direction of Prof. Johan Neyts, definitively demonstrated that the BIOPROTECT™ formulation eliminates SARS-CoV-2 by both reducing its ability to be infectious and by destroying its genomic material.

“Our studies on numerous antiseptic agents for surfaces contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 show that the BIOPROTECT™ formulation’s long-lasting activity is far superior to conventional decontamination agents in general use,” said Prof. Damian Purcell, Head of the Molecular Virology Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne.  The Doherty Institute’s comprehensive report is expected to be available next week.

Figure. When applied to a surface or incorporated into a material, BIOPROTECT™ forms a covalent bond with the substrate and creates a microbiostatic antimicrobial protective layer, making it unreceptive to microorganisms. The coating forms a nano-bed shield of spikes (self-assembling monolayer), each of which carry a positive charge that attracts the negatively charged microorganism. Once attracted, the molecular spikes pierce the cell and rupture its cell membrane, causing the microorganism to die. Image from ViaClean Technologies.

The tests were conducted in both “wet” and “dry” conditions.  In the wet test, SARS-CoV-2 was coated on stainless steel disks which were then treated with a wet solution of the BIOPROTECT™ formulation. In the dry test, the BIOPROTECT™ formulation was first applied to stainless steel samples which, 46 days later, were then exposed to a high titer of SARS-CoV-2.  Proving the longevity of the BIOPROTECT™ formulation on treated surfaces, tests revealed that the presence of the BIOPROTECT™ formulation maintained the ability to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 to negligible levels.  Furthermore, test results from Rega demonstrated that the disks pretreated with the BIOPROTECT™ formulation averaged a 99.7% inactivation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  All tests conducted were designed to conform with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and equivalent standards of regulatory agencies in Europe and Australia, to ensure the acceptability and credibility of the results.

“We tested BIOPROTECT™ formulation and found that it eliminated 99.7% of the SARS-CoV-2 present, 46 days after the tested material was treated with BIOPROTECT™ formulation,” said Dr. Johan Neyts, Professor of Virology at the Rega Institute for Medical Research, KU Leuven.  “This product is unique and its long-lasting ability to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 far exceeds conventional disinfectants, which makes it very helpful in the battle against COVID-19.”  The Rega Institute’s report is accessible here.

“The results of the tests conducted by the Doherty and the Rega Institutes clearly demonstrate that BIOPROTECT™ eradicates SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces and provides continuous residual antimicrobial protection for an extended period of time,” said Dr. Bréchot.  “It is clear that effective antimicrobials will be extremely important in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, given the time it will take to implement mass vaccination and fully develop novel therapies.  In this context, we are not aware of any microbicide surface treatment that continuously prohibits the growth and surface transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 for an extended period of time.  This represents a significant breakthrough in inhibiting the spread of COVID-19 by preventing surfaces from being contaminated by the virus and stopping the spread of the virus through contact with contaminated surfaces. Identifying and exploring innovative solutions, as well as fostering and facilitating collaboration between academic and industrial partners, be it large pharmaceutical firms or small biotech companies, is one of several ways the GVN can make a consequential contribution to the fight against COVID-19.”

 

GVN Also Advances The Concept Of The Oral Polio Vaccine As A Preventive Measure Against SARS-CoV-2

The GVN has also advanced a concept developed by Dr. Robert Gallo, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder & Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder & Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the Global Virus Network, and by Dr. Konstantin Chumakov, Associate Director for Vaccines at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and a GVN Center Director, to use the existing and proven safe Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) as a preventive measure against SARS-CoV-2.  Non-specific protective effects of OPV have been demonstrated several times against a broad set of different virus outbreaks in the 1960’s and 70’s.  More recent studies confirmed these observations and revealed that other live vaccines produce pronounced non-specific protective effects, whereas inactivated vaccines do not.  Data from randomized clinical studies showed that OPV immunization campaigns reduced all-cause mortality despite the complete absence of poliovirus circulation.  The emerging body of evidence suggests that besides inducing specific humoral and cellular immune responses, OPV may activate multiple branches of the immune system, including training innate immunity and thus increasing resistance to a broad spectrum of pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2.  The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence, submitted a proposal to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for an 11,000-person clinical trial to demonstrate and establish the efficacy of OPV against SARS-CoV-2.

“The GVN is playing a very meaningful role in the battle against SARS-CoV-2 by coalescing the world’s foremost virologists and COVID-19 specialists to collaboratively share their expertise, findings and research, and by bringing together academia and industry to collaborate on the development and advancement of novel technologies, therapeutics and vaccine candidates for COVID-19,” said Dr. Gallo.  “I am pleased the GVN was able to identify laboratories to independently verify the efficacy of BIOPROTECT™, bring the potential benefit of OPV to the forefront of the scientific community and spearhead OPV clinical studies in China, Iran, Russia and the United States.”

 

#          #          #          #

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 10 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

About the Peter Doherty Institute

Located in the heart of Melbourne’s Biomedical Precinct, the Doherty Institute is named in honor of Patron, Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells. Under the expert guidance of Director, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin, a leader in research and clinical management of HIV and infectious diseases, the Doherty Institute has more than 700 staff who work on infection and immunity through a broad spectrum of activities. This includes discovery research; diagnosis, surveillance and investigation of infectious disease outbreaks; and the development of ways to prevent, treat and eliminate infectious diseases.

About the Rega Institute of Medical Research

The Rega Institute was founded in 1954 by Professor Piet De Somer and named after the 18th century philanthropist and professor Josephus Rega of Leuven. It hosts part of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Since its inception, the Rega Institute hosts also the Section of Medicinal Chemistry of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and it is thus a true interdepartmental and interdisciplinary research institute. The Rega Institute has always been a jewel in the crown of research and innovation at KU Leuven on the basis of publications, citations and prestigious scientific prizes of its members.

 

GVN MEDIA CONTACT

Nora Samaranayake
Phone:  410-706-1966
Email:    nsamaranayake@gvn.org

 

Global Virus Network’s Institute of Human Virology and Italian Scientists Identify Unique Mutations in SARS-CoV-2 Found in Europe and North America

BALTIMORE, MD, April 9, 2020: The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a Global Virus Network (GVN) Center of Excellence, and scientists from Trieste, Italy announced today the characterization of a novel mutation in the RNA polymerase of certain viral strains of SARS-CoV-2 carried by patients located in Europe and North America. In addition, different patterns of mutations were identified in viral strains corresponding to different geographical areas. The data were obtained by analyzing more than 200 widespread full-length genomic sequences from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) databases from December 2019 to March 2020.

“We are pleased to collaborate with colleagues in Trieste, and work within the framework of the Global Virus Network, to identify SARS-CoV-2 mutations and their implications in the pandemic, and to advise for therapeutics and vaccine development,” said Robert Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the Global Virus Network (GVN).

The findings show that SARS-CoV-2 is quickly evolving and different European, North American and Asian strains may coexist, however, more research is needed to identify the biological significance of these mutations.

“We need to understand the biological and medical significance of the mutations,” said Davide Zella, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and member, Global Virus Network. “We will continue to collaborate with our Italian colleagues to identify viral mutations in this region.”

“We are excited by these results as they can be applied to improve diagnostic tools to better detect this virus,” said Rudy Ippodrino, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Ulisse Biomed, Trieste, Italy.

The data were submitted to, and preprinted by, the Journal of Translational Medicine.

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical System, IHV is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is home to some of the most globally-recognized and world-renowned experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders – most notably, HIV the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, www.ihv.org and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

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
443-823-0613
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

Editorial from Dr. Christian Brechot and Dr. Robert Gallo

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic is spreading and has become a pandemic with a major impact on national health systems and economics, as well as population behaviors. Delineating the future of the pandemic expansion and the geographical areas which will be hit has important consequences as to the capacity to be prepared and take adequate measures to curb the viral dissemination. The progress of science and in particular of mathematical modeling has now offered this possibility. The Global Virus Network, with its fifty four research centers worldwide, has been supporting such initiative. In the posted article from Dr Mohammad M. Sajadi and Dr. Anthony Amoroso, working at the Institute of Human Virology and Global Virus Network, University of Maryland, and other colleagues, the scientists suggest that weather modeling can explain the spread of the virus until now, and that it may be possible to predict the regions most likely to be at higher risk of significant community spread of COVID-19 in the upcoming weeks. This might allow to better focus the public health efforts on surveillance and containment. Clearly, beside climate variables, there are multiple factors to be considered when dealing with a pandemic, such as human population densities and human factors, viral genetic evolution and pathogenesis. Thus those predictions should be considered with caution. Yet this work exactly illustrates how networking activities and science, as provided by the Global Virus Network, can contribute to curbing the infectious threats.

 

Robert Gallo

Co-Founder & International Scientific Advisor, Global Virus Network

Co-founder & Director, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

 

Christian Bréchot

President Global Virus network

Professor University of South Florida

ENHANCED MODEL FOR MONITORING ZONES OF INCREASED RISK OF COVID-19 SPREAD

Research By GVN Scientists Establishes Link Between Temperature, Latitude, Spread & Seasonality

Baltimore, MD, March 10, 2020:  Scientists affiliated with the Global Virus Network (GVN), the worldwide coalition of preeminent virologists engaged in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, have determined that temperature and latitude may have a direct link to the spread and seasonality of COVID-19.  The analysis was conducted by Drs. Mohammad M. Sajadi, MD, and Anthony Amoroso, MD, in conjunction with the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland and Global Virus Network.  Their paper (https://bit.ly/3cMhQ43), “Temperature and Latitude Analysis to Predict Potential Spread and Seasonality for COVID-19” has been made publicly available at the Elsevier’s SSRN site (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3550308).  Researchers from University of Maryland College Park, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Shiraz, Iran, and Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran also participated in this study.

 

Figure. World 1000hPa temperature map March 2019-April 2019 showing at risk zone. Color gradient indicates 1000hPa temperatures in degrees Celsius. Tentative zone at risk for significant community spread in the near-term include land areas within the light green bands, outlined in dark black (showing 5-10°C zone based on 2019 data). Predicted area is up to 11°C (slightly more south, not shown), and will change based on actual average temperatures during this time period. Image from Climate Reanalyzer (https://ClimateReanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.

“Through this extensive research, it has been determined that weather modeling could potentially explain the spread of COVID-19, making it possible to predict the regions that are most likely to be at higher risk of significant community spread in the near future,” said Robert C. Gallo, MD, Co-founder & Director, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and 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 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “In addition to climate variables, there are multiple factors to be considered when dealing with a pandemic, such as human population densities, human factors, viral genetic evolution and pathogenesis.  This work illustrates how collaborative research can contribute to understanding, mitigating and preventing infectious threats.”

To date, COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has established significant community spread in cities and regions along a narrow east and west distribution, roughly along the 30-50 N” corridor at consistently similar weather patterns (5-11 degrees C and 47-79% humidity).  The GVN’s simplified weather model illustrates the regions that are potentially at higher risk of significant community spread of COVID-19 in the coming weeks, allowing for concentration of public health efforts on surveillance and containment.

“The research conducted by Drs. Mohammad M. Sajadi, MD, and Anthony Amoroso, MD, suggests that overall, human coronaviruses (HCoV-229E, HCoV-HKU1, HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-OC43), which usually lead to common cold symptoms, have been shown to display strong winter seasonality between December and April, and are undetectable in summer months in temperate regions,” said Dr. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN, and a Professor at the University of South Florida.  “Based upon the analysis, and assuming the virus doesn’t continue to mutate, we would expect that COVID-19 will diminish considerably in affected areas (above the 30-degree N”) in the coming months, however, the virus could survive at low levels in tropical regions and begin to rise again in the late fall and winter in temperate regions in the upcoming year. We will continue to monitor closely and provide real-time updates as developments and information warrant.”

“Based on what we have documented so far, it appears that the virus has a harder time spreading between people in warmer, tropical climates,” said study leader Mohammad Sajadi, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the IHV in UMSOM and a member of GVN. “That suggests once average temperatures rise above 12 degrees Celsius and higher (54 degree Fahrenheit and higher), the virus may be harder to transmit, but this is still a hypothesis that requires more data.”

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has reached pandemic level, with a major impact on national health systems, economics and population behaviors.  Delineating and understanding the future of the pandemic expansion and geographical areas affected has important consequences in preparation and impacting the viral dissemination.  The GVN is committed to advancing knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as to catalyze and facilitate the development of drugs, therapeutics, treatments and vaccines to combat them.  For more information on the GVN, please visit: www.gvn.org.

# # #

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 nine 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
410-706-1966
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

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
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

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
nsamaranayake@gvn.org