University of South Florida

USF at forefront as world’s top virus experts meet to address COVID-19, preparing for future pandemics

USF Health’s Dr. Christian Brechot leads the Global Virus Network

The University of South Florida was at the forefront when the world’s top virologists met recently to identify advances and pitfalls in the fight against COVID-19 and drive a “Viral Pandemic Readiness Alliance.”

USF Health’s Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, president of the Global Virus Network, presided over the GVN’s 2020 Special Annual Meeting, held virtually Sept. 23-24. GVN is a network representing 57 research centers (including USF) and 10 affiliates in 33 countries – all working to prevent illness and death from viral disease through independent, science-driven expertise.

Christian Brechot, MD, PhD

Christian Brechot, MD, PhD

With Dr. Brechot leading GVN and Linman Li, MBA, MPH, of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine, serving as GVN vice-president, USF is now recognized as a major partner of the international coalition at a critical time for overall population health.

GVN convened the two-day workshop to address epidemics and pandemics in the modern era. Discussion and presentations focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended the world with its health, economic, social and psychological ramifications.

“We do not know what the future holds for COVID-19 – there may be seasonal variations, or chronic infections, or maybe a slowdown,” said Dr. Bréchot, senior associate dean for research in global affairs at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine.  “However, we know that we have to prepare now — not after the end of this pandemic. In the spirit of preparation, we used this special annual meeting to band together international experts to identify and analyze what went wrong, what has been properly handled, and what recommendations we can confidently make.”

The key take-away points from the workshop are included in this press release. An executive summary citing the major research issues discussed — including the need for rapid and reliable diagnostic testing based on salivary samples, repurposed drugs and new therapies combining direct antiviral approaches with immune modulation, and vaccines targeting innate immunity — can be viewed here.  GVN scientist also weighed in on the role of “super-spreaders” and “super-spreading events” in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection; read more about that research in Dr. Bréchot’s Oct. 7 blog.

As a result of the workshop, GVN is contacting the other stakeholder institutions to drive a multidisciplinary response strategy, called the Viral Pandemic Readiness Alliance. This alliance would help unify the efforts of academia, industry, government and communities in confronting the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for future viral threats.

“It may sound obvious, but as long as each country tries to address the COVID-19 pandemic on its own, we won’t come through,” Dr. Bréchot said. “This is a fight that is going to last, and we need to find solutions together. It requires global cooperation and coordination to efficiently translate our scientific and technological advances into successful infectious disease and public health outcomes.”

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