LETTER FROM DR. CHRISTIAN BRECHOT

Over the past year and a half it has been my great privilege to serve as president of the Global Virus Network (GVN). I want to thank to all of my colleagues and partners who have worked so hard to transform GVN into what it is today. I also want to share with you the work that we have been doing, and our plans for the future, particularly in the area of training and education.

Supporting and training the next generation of virologists is one of the most important parts of our mission. There is a critical need for highly skilled, broadly educated virologists worldwide and we want to ensure that there are enough of them. Our programs in Baltimore, including the popular and successful annual GVN Short Course, offer expert instruction to researchers and scientists from around the world.

From July 28 to August 3, 2019 we will be offering our 6th annual GVN Short Course. Over the years we have received enthusiastic feedback about the course and its positive impact on those who have taken part. We now have about 70 alumni of the course, who are now our GVN “ambassadors” to the rest of the world, and we will only continue to expand this number.

I’m also proud to announce that, to ensure that early-career virologists have even more opportunity to learn from more experienced scientists, we are expanding our educational programs to other regions. This is part of our larger strategy to become even more global by establishing GVN chapters in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and Europe.

While Baltimore will remain the administrative headquarters of the GVN, these regional units will allow us to expand the capabilities of the GVN even further. By creating regional GVN chapters, we will be better able to expand our global reach, and meet the diverse needs of different parts of the world. Each regional chapter will have programs and initiatives that address the specific needs of each area, and further build local capacity.

We are beginning with the formation of the Africa GVN. We have identified local partners, GVN members with whom to collaborate on this endeavor: the Institute for Human Virology in Nigeria, the Africa Center of Excellence for Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals (ACEIDHA) at the University of Zambia School of Veterinary Medicine, the Uganda Virus Research Institute, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service, the South African Medical Research Council, the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases (WACCBIP), the Fondation Merieux, and the Institut Pasteur International Network.

The inaugural meeting of this chapter will take place in Entebbe, Uganda in May. The Wellcome Trust, AST, and Cepheid have generously provided official support for the meeting. The aim of this meeting is really to listen to those who have been working in the field for so many years. It will also be to delineate how our activities will be complementary to those of the numerous institutions and networks that are already active, including the African Academy of Science, the Africa CDC, the Wellcome trust, Gates Foundation, European Commission, and others. We will introduce the GVN Centers and Affiliates in Africa, present ongoing research and training activities, prioritize regional training and research programs, and identify potential funding sources. We will also discuss next steps, focusing on the following meeting objectives:

  • Present ongoing training and education initiatives in GVN Centers and Affiliates,
  • Plan new research and training initiatives,
  • Discuss the existing activities so as to position GVN as a partner for existing organizations and networks, and
  • Initiate the first activities

We plan to partner GVN centers throughout the world, allowing for cross-national networks and for the pooling of expertise in different areas of veterinary, clinical and basic research. There are many examples of such partnerships, including the one between the ACEIDHA at the University of Zambia and two longtime GVN Centers of Excellence, Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan and University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland, and the one between the recently created center in Colombia and the University of Wisconsin.

GVN’s work to increase the scope of education and training opportunities will be discussed during our next International Meeting in Barcelona in June, 2019 – I hope you will join us there. Our efforts are also closely connected to our various task forces and to the creation of our new Anticipation & Preparedness Task Force.

As always our goal is to create more opportunities for connections among our international network of researchers and public health officials. Whether in the lab or in the field, GVN members can share knowledge and expertise to better prepare for, respond to, and perhaps even anticipate, the next viral pandemic. As we move forward in these ambitious endeavors, we look forward to hearing your ideas and input.

Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD
President, Global Virus Network (GVN)