Gladstone Joins With World's Top Virologists To Prevent, Treat Virus Outbreaks
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—March 9, 2011—The Gladstone Institutes, a leading biomedical-research organization, today announced its participation in a bold new consortium intended to help the global community better identify, prevent and treat outbreaks of new or re-emerging viruses. Dr. Warner Greene, who heads virology and immunology research at Gladstone, is among the world's top medical virologists who are directors of the newly-formed Global Virus Network ("GVN"), an international authority and resource for the identification, investigation, and control of viral diseases posing threats to mankind. Each of the attendees at the GVN's inaugural meeting in Washington this past week signed a declaration to ratify their participation in and support of the GVN.
"This is a bold, cutting-edge idea to create a global network of virology laboratories whose capabilities far surpass that of any single laboratory in the world," said Dr. Greene, who has directed Gladstone's exceptional HIV/AIDS research for the past two decades. The GVN will complement work done by existing organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, Dr. Greene added. But it will focus on the world's 5,000 or so known viruses, as well as any new viruses.
"This is a first-rate group of virologists," Dr. Greene said. "The world needs this kind of collaboration to help prevent, treat and stop viruses in their tracks and to train the next generation of medical virologists."
Dr. Robert C. Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has thought as much for years. Dr. Gallo, a co-founder of the GVN, is widely known for his discovery of the first human retroviruses (including one which causes a specific kind of leukemia), his co-discovery of HIV and the development of the HIV blood test. Since the early 1980's and following the immediate HIV/AIDS outbreak, Dr. Gallo began promoting the need for global collaboration to overcome research gaps during the earliest phases of viral epidemics, and to ensure that sufficient numbers of medical virologists are trained to meet these challenges in the future.
"Since HIV/AIDS first appeared," said Gallo, "I strongly have believed mankind will best be served if the world's leading virologists are organized and better equipped to deal with new and existing viral threats. The GVN fulfills this mission."
The GVN's goals and objectives are to:
- create a network of experts on medically-important viruses in partnership with existing surveillance programs and public-health organizations, in order to control viral threats by providing a rapid, coordinated first response and research approach;
- build collaborative research alliances within the network to undertake focused research on diseases with known and suspected viral causes and which require specialized expertise from multiple members;
- mitigate the critical lack of current and future medical virologists through practical training programs;
- educate governments, public-health organizations and the public at large on viral threats and advocate research and training to address those threats to mankind.
Comprising nearly 40 representatives from more than a dozen countries and growing, the GVN will act as a global authority on and first-responder to dangerous viruses, operating as an international clearinghouse to educate, inform and disseminate critical information to governments, health organizations, healthcare practitioners and the public at large. In the case of an outbreak, the GVN will appoint members to study the situation and then get some of its scientists on the scene for a first response.
"The GVN will strengthen relationships with developed and developing countries," said Dr. William Hall of the University College Dublin, Ireland and another GVN co-founder. "Viruses don't discriminate. They affect all of us. No longer are the days when viruses infect only small populations, or a small geographical area – today they can rapidly travel the world. As such, the interaction and cooperation of all countries will be essential for effective responses."
With an eye to the future, the GVN will also work to overcome the critical shortage of trained medical virologists.
"There is a worldwide shortage of medically-trained virologists, and those of us leading the field must cultivate an environment of growth for future generations," said Dr. Reinhard Kurth of the Koch Institute and a co-founder of the GVN. "My colleagues and I from Germany are thrilled to be a part of this historic initiative."
The GVN is currently in fund-raising mode, with a goal of bringing in $25 million annually to pay for its activities. Its next meeting is planned for this fall.
About the Global Virus Network (GVN)
The Global Virus Network (GVN) is an independent organization comprised of leading medical virologists from Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia (in collaboration with Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Uzbekistan and Ukraine), Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The GVN will be a global authority and resource for the identification, investigation, and eradication of viral diseases that pose threats to mankind. The GVN enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses. The GVN addresses a global need for coordinated virology training, developing scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in medical virology. The GVN will serve as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies. It will also advocate research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations, and will act as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of information to authorities, scientific communities and the world publics.
Warner Greene's primary affiliation is with the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, where he is director and the Nick and Sue Hellmann Distinguished Professor of Translational Medicine and where his laboratory is located and his research is conducted. He is also a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at UCSF.
About the Gladstone Institutes
Gladstone is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and biomedical innovation to prevent illness and cure patients suffering from cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, or viral infections. Gladstone is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.