Global Virus Network (GVN) Announces 2022 Elected Members Of Rising Star Mentorship Program 


The eleven awardees will receive training and mentorship to help support and propel their rising careers in virology

BALTIMORE, MD, December 6, 2022: The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of human and animal virologists from 68 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 39 countries, today announced eleven members of the 2022 GVN Rising Star Mentorship Program. The newly elected members span eight countries around the globe.

"It is important that an effective response to future disease outbreaks is informed by new knowledge about basic science,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, Ph.D., President of the GVN, Associate Vice President for International Partnerships and Innovation at the University of South Florida, and Professor, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Internal Medicine at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the GVN Southeast U.S. Regional Headquarters. As such, the GVN has developed this training and mentoring program for the next generation of virologists as a part of its core mission.”

The initiative, launched last year, identifies, prepares, and supports promising, early-career investigators to become leaders in the field of infectious diseases. The program also offers development of innovative diagnostic and interventional approaches to fight human pathogens.

"In the recent past, my colleagues and I noticed a tremendous decline in students entering the field of virology,” said Robert Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky 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, and Co-Founder of the GVN and Chair of the GVN’s Scientific Leadership Board.  “The GVN will fill this gap by ensuring that there are enough highly-trained virologists across the globe, and by supporting and training virologists early in their careers, particularly as deadly viral threats are on the rise.”

As the only coalition of its kind, the GVN Rising Star Mentorship Program offers a rare opportunity for future virology leaders to collaborate with key researchers, medical practitioners, and decision-makers driving scientific, evidence-based solutions for some of today’s largest challenges in public health. The eleven awardees for the inaugural cohort of the program include:



  • David Martinez, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Epidemiology/Microbiology, and Immunology, USA
  • Poonam Mathur, DO, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA
  • Christine O'Connor, Ph.D., Associate Staff, Cleveland Clinic, Lerner Research Institute Genomic Medicine Infection, Biology Program, Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health, USA
  • Annie Elong Ngono, Ph.D., Research Instructor, La Jolla Institute for Immunology, USA
  • Leen Delang, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Rega Institute for Medical Research, University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Sushama Telwatte, Ph.D., Instructor at the SF Veteran Affairs Medical Center, University of Melbourne, Doherty Institute, Australia
  • Waqas Ahmad, DVM, M.Phil., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University College of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Narowal Department of Clinical Sciences (Epidemiology Section), Pakistan
  • Joseph Anejo-Okopi, MSc, MBA, Ph.D., Professor, Federal University of Health Sciences, Nigeria
  • Sudheesh Nittur, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Deputy Quality Manager, Manipal Institute of Virology (MIV), MAHE, India
  • Marielton dos Passos Cunha, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Michael Bright Yakass, Ph.D., Clinical Embryologist, Lister Hospital & Fertility Centre, Ghana

Early in 2021, GVN received a donation of US$1 million to support the GVN Academy, an initiative that fosters global collaboration by providing training and mentoring programs for rising junior virologists. With these funds, the organization launched the GVN Rising Star Mentorship Program, now mentoring 16 scientists over the course of two years as well as connecting each mentee with a GVN senior virologist who can help provide one-on-one research and career guidance. Participants of the program participate in exclusive GVN meetings and other professional development opportunities in virology.

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated the need for highly educated medical virologists who undergo special training in understanding the molecular biology and evolution of viruses, the pathogenesis of virus-associated diseases as well as options for prophylaxis and treatment of viral infections”, said Ulrike Protzer, MD, Chair of Virology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Co-Director of the TUM GVN Center of Excellence and Director of the Institute of Virology at Helmholtz Munich.  “I am pleased GVN is helping to meet this critical need in combatting viral pandemics.”

To learn more about the GVN Rising Star Mentorship Program, visit 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 68 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 39 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 Follow us on Twitter at @GlobalVirusNews


Media Contact:

Nora Samaranayake, GVN
[email protected]