University of South Florida

Leaders form stronger ties at USF Health, Global Virus Network signing ceremony

Leaders from USF Health and the Global Virus Network (GVN) recently gathered on the University of South Florida campus in north Tampa to sign the final documents making it official that USF Health serves as GVN’s Southeast United States Regional Headquarters.

USF Health and GVN announced nearly two years ago that USF Health earned the designation, but COVID-19 delayed the official signing until this year. The signing took place at the USF Lifsey House Feb 27, 2023, and marks the advancement of the collaborative relationship among the two organizations.

From left, Dr. Charles Lockwood, Pres. Rhea Law, Mathew Evins, and Dr. Christian Brechot.

“What we are signing together today marks a first, that USF is the first regional headquarters to be created with GVN,” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, president of GVN; associate vice president for International Partnerships and Innovation at USF; director of the USF Microbiomes Institute, and professor in the Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Internal Medicine at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “This headquarters at USF will allow GVN to expand its outreach into Florida with USF’s academic, research and medical activities and expertise, including USF’s international activities. In turn, GVN will provide to USF increased visibility and critical mass across the globe in the field of virology.”

“We are so excited to be the headquarters for the Global Virus Network,” said USF President Rhea Law. “This is an initiative in which we can have enhanced collaborations that focus on huge issues affecting our world today. We can make a difference. Thank you so much for all you’ve done. We are looking forward to our collaboration and to our next steps in opportunities to change the world.”

“We are very grateful to be the Southeast Regional Headquarters and this is a significant stepping stone to where we are headed in virology,” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, executive vice president of USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “One of the key elements of putting this all together is Christian Bréchot. He has been such an incredible resource, for recruitment of virologists, addressing microbiome, and strengthening many of our programs. It has been a joy to see this collaboration develop and grow. So now, the sky is the limit with this great team in place.”

“On behalf of Bob Gallo, the Board of Directors, and the leadership of the Global Virus Network, I would like to express our most profound appreciation to the University of South Florida for its invaluable and instrumental partnership,” Mathew Evins, executive chair and treasurer of the GVN Board of Directors and chair of Evins Communications, Ltd. “I’ve been involved with GVN from the beginning and I cannot think of a situation where I have been more proud. This is a very significant step for us because the key to the successes of GVN in the future are the kind of partnerships we have with the University of South Florida. This for us is not an incremental step; it is an exponential step. I could not be more grateful for your support, your encouragement, and your partnership.”

GVN encompasses the world’s foremost virologists from 71 centers of excellence and 9 affiliates in 40 nations – all working to prevent illness and death from viral diseases posing threats to humanity. Bridging academia, government and industry, the coalition is internationally recognized as an authority and resource for identifying, investigating, interpreting, explaining, controlling, and suppressing viral diseases.

USF Health was the first regional headquarters named by GVN to provide organizational and leadership support to GVN’s Global Headquarters in Baltimore, Md. In that capacity, USF Health will help strengthen GVN’s initial research response to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, and its collaborative efforts to plan for, and defend against, future epidemics and pandemics.

Since announcing USF Health’s designation as the GVN Southeast United States Regional Headquarters, the two organization have launched several programs, including the Global Health Conversation Series with USF Health International that hosted a recent webinar featuring Rachel Roper, MS, PhD, who spoke on Monkeypox virus, vaccines and virulence; Dr. Bréchot’s Health and Care Blog that provides updates on novel insights into the COVID-19 pandemic; One Health Codeathon, an effort between GVN and the USF Genomics Program that provides students the opportunity to learn how to harness data sciences against pandemics; and submission of several joint grant applications, including to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The GVN Southeast U.S. Regional Headquarters based at USF Health will encompass the four health sciences colleges of the university: the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, and the USF Health Taneja College of Pharmacy. USF Health is an integral part of USF, a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF.

The appearance of COVID-19 has transformed society almost beyond recognition, with lasting implications for health care, the economy and our social and psychological well-being. Together we can, and we must, be better prepared to meet the challenges of the next emerging virus.”

In addition to their leadership roles at GVN Global Headquarters in Baltimore, Md., Dr. Bréchot and GVN Vice President Linman Li of the USF Health Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine will lead the new GVN Southeast U.S. Regional Headquarters and focus on regional efforts to expand government and other research funding, as well as research and training initiatives. The regional headquarters designation will enable USF Health scientists to partner with GVN experts worldwide to share ideas and research, to translate research into practical applications, to improve diagnostics and therapies, and to develop vaccines.

GVN members collaborate on science-driven, independent research in many areas, including immunology and vaccines, antiviral drug therapy, virus-host interaction, diagnostic virology and epidemiology, morphogenesis and structural biology, emerging and re-emerging viruses, viruses as biotechnological tools, and trending topics in virology. They also train the next generation of virologists to combat the epidemics of the future.

Video by Allison Long, photos by Freddie Coleman, USF Health Communications

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