The Global Virus Network (GVN) Launches Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce Following 10th International Meeting in Annecy, France

The GVN Undertakes Worldwide Initiative to Support Public Health Authorities 

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, March 27, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN), a worldwide coalition of preeminent virologists engaged in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, has launched the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce (A&P Taskforce).  The A&P Taskforce is led by Dr. Christian Bréchot, President of the GVN, and Co-Chaired by Elodie Ghedin, PhD, Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and Professor of Biology and Global Public Health at New York University, and Giuseppe Ippolito, MD, the Scientific Director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome and Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for clinical care, diagnosis, response and training on Highly Infectious Diseases at INMI.

The Taskforce is comprised of more than a dozen experts from GVN Centers of Excellence and Affiliates and its mission is to develop and employ innovative and pioneering approaches to identify and elucidate the impact and magnitude of future viral epidemics by coalescing mathematic modelling with epidemiology, genomics, medicine and public health.  The Taskforce will work closely with public health authorities, existing networks and institutions as well as disseminate vital clinical and scientific information on best practices for the diagnosis and management virus related pathogens.

Said Dr. BrĂ©chot, “The identification of emerging, re-emerging and unknown infectious diseases and surveillance of viral pathogens humans and wildlife is critical for early prediction of future disease outbreaks and epidemics.  This must be based on science and the best of research activities on these topics. Analyzing these viral pathogens as well as the host response to these pathogens will enable us to build models for rapid diagnostics and thus early identification as well as prompt clinical management of suspected cases. The Taskforce will also facilitate and expedite the development of critical epidemiological protocols and guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of emerging, re-emerging and unknown viruses, as well as training healthcare professionals in all geographical areas to deal with infectious diseases caused by such viruses; being science-driven it will work in close interaction with the other organizations at stake on this major issue”.

A recent article published by the BBC titled, “The Mystery Viruses Far Worse Than the Flu” (Gorvett, 2018), emphasized the critical and timely need to anticipate and prepare for the next human pandemic; and this is one of the primary mandates for the formation and implementation of the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce. In addition, the A&P Taskforce will develop standardized practices and protocols for global biodefense and biosecurity.  Of all the challenges that pose a clear and present threat to public health, biosecurity poses one of the greatest global risks.  The GVN is the only single institution in the world that has specialist expertise in all emerging, re-emerging and unknown viruses, and the GVN is now a member of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.  Furthermore, following a recent meeting between Dr. BrĂ©chot and representatives from the WHO in Geneva, the GVN will closely interact with the WHO on the development, standardization and implementation of biosecurity standards and practices. 

The Taskforce’s biodefense and biosecurity initiative will be led by James LeDuc, PhD, the director of the Galveston National Laboratory and a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.  Said Dr. LeDuc in his recent article, “Network for Safe and Secure Labs” (LeDuc, 2018), published in Science, “dangerous diseases exist in many corners of the world and that they can cause substantial human suffering and financial devastation locally and internationally. In response, institutions and nations are constructing maximum biocontainment laboratories (MCLs) to address these threats. MCLs operate at the highest level of biological containment to diagnose, perform research on and validate cures for life-threatening diseases like Ebola.  The global proliferation of these facilities raises questions about how to ensure safe and secure operations while enhancing their contributions to science and global health. One solution is to establish an MCL network that enables the sharing of best practices, collaboration, transparency and exchange of specimens and technology.” The A&P Taskforce, as well as eight new Virus Watch Groups, were adopted by the Leadership Committee of the GVN at the organization’s tenth international meeting in Annecy, France in the Fall of last year.  The objective of the Virus Watch Groups is to establish regular communication and collaboration between the GVN’s experts, further highlighting the GVN as the go-to organization for virus science expertise in the event of an emerging epidemic.  The Virus Watch Groups will enable rapid responses to threats in the following categories: Arboviruses; Gastrointestinal; Hemorrhagic Fever; Herpes; Oncogenic; Respiratory; Retroviruses; and Zoonotic. During the course of the meeting, which was hosted by the MĂ©rieux Foundation and University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, attendees discussed the challenges posed by emerging and reemerging viruses, in the context of political instability and burgeoning refugees, deforestation and urban expansion, inadequate and incomplete vaccination and the lack of consistent and standardized biosafety measures, among other critical factors.

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 45 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 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 @GlobalVirusNews