GVN Celebrates Launch of Jamaica Affiliate

In February The Global Virus Network (GVN) celebrated the launch of its new Affiliate Center of Excellence at the University of West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. Robert Gallo, MD, Co-founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN, 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, attended, along with the Principal of the University of West Indies (UWI), the Dean of the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences, and other key researchers and government officials.

“The strength of the GVN lies in the power of our network. This new addition is particularly important as we strengthen GVN’s global reach and our presence in the Caribbean,” says Dr. Gallo. “We have a long history of working with UWI and look forward to collaborating again through GVN initiatives.”

The GVN Jamaica Affiliate, UWI Mona focuses on research, testing, and diagnosis of influenza, mosquito-borne viruses such as zika, dengue, and chikungunya, and chronic viral infections, including viral hepatitis and HIV. As the country’s major virus research center and virology laboratory, UWI Mona works closely with Jamaica’s Ministry of Health to support in the testing and analysis of emerging viruses. “Being part of the GVN gives us the opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of other experts in the field,” says Joshua Anzinger, PhD, Professor in the Department of Microbiology at UWI Mona and Director of the Jamaica Affiliate. “It will help us to get access to more equipment, such as a sequencer, so that we can identify emerging viruses, more quickly.” He says UWI is working to build a biosafety level 3 laboratory.

The Jamaica Affiliate also expands the GVN’s presence in the Caribbean region. The partnership gives GVN access not only to the research done in Jamaica, but also to the work at the other UWI campuses in Trinidad and Barbados, where there can be very different viruses.

UWI is also involved in an ongoing NIH Fogarty grant, which also involves other GVN partners. In 2018, UWI Mona, along with the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo, also a GVN Center of Excellence, and the Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, received a five-year NIH Fogarty grant to develop a global infectious diseases research training program. The work will focus on human pathogenic viruses, and will also provide funding for the planned Jamaica Center for Infectious Diseases Research.

The grant is directed by Gene Morse, PharmD, Director of the University of Buffalo Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences and co-director of the SUNY Global Health Institute, Timothy Endy, MD, Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at SUNY Upstate Medical University and John Lindo, PhD, a parasitologist and Deputy Dean for research in the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences.

Prof. Lindo and Prof. Morse also co-chair the SUNY UWI Health Research Task Force, a component of the SUNY UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development. The SUNY UWI Health Research Task Force will foster collaboration between SUNY and UWI and support the efforts of the Jamaica Ministry of Health to improve health in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The partnership with SUNY and with the GVN network also provides UWI students with opportunities for further training. “Being part of this GVN network gives people at UWI the chance to study with some of the best in the field,” says Dr. Anzinger. Four UWI students are now Fogarty Fellows and five others have attended the GVN Short Course in Baltimore. “We had our first student go up to SUNY Buffalo,” says Dr. Anzinger, “and he’s learning so much that he’ll bring back here.”