Faculty to co-lead global research network to confront emerging pandemic viruses

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

An international group of researchers – including faculty from the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the UW Medicine's Institute of Protein Design – will work together to combat emerging pandemic viruses under the auspices of a newly formed United World Antiviral Research Network (UWARN).

The network was established through a five-year, $8.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Center for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases. UWARN will also include researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and collaborators at Rockefeller University in New York City, FIOCRUZ in Brazil, IRESSEF in Senegal, KRISP in South Africa, Aga Khan University in Pakistan and Chang Gung University in Taiwan.

The network will be led by Judith Wasserheit, professor and chair of global health and professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health; Peter Rabinowitz, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and of global health at the UW School of Public Health and director of the School's Center for One Health Research; and adjunct professors Wesley C. Van Voorhis and Michael Gale Jr. 

Wasserheit, Rabinowitz and Van Voorhis are all professors of medicine at the UW School of Medicine. Gale is a professor of immunology at the UW School of Medicine. He is also a graduate of the UW School of Public Health and was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019. The four principal investigators of UWARN are also a part of the UW Metacenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security, a center based in the Department of Global Health that is comprised of leadership and expertise from eight different UW centers.

“We are very excited to establish UWARN, and the new collaborations with the five overseas partners to better address viral pandemics,” said Van Voorhis, who helped connect researchers in the United States and abroad to become part of UWARN.

UWARN leadership says that the timing is more important than ever because the network will provide surveillance for emerging pandemic viruses, develop urgently needed diagnostics and therapeutics, and expand understanding of viral immune responses, which is key to vaccine development.

UWARN researchers will address emerging viral infectious diseases through collaborating partner research laboratories in Brazil, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa and Taiwan. Other research activities will involve developing innovative diagnostic reagents, including human viral-neutralizing antibodies and designed proteins that release light when antibodies to virus are present in blood. UWARN research also hopes to improve understanding of how viruses manipulate the human immune system. 

UWARN will serve as one of ten National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Centers within the Centers for Emerging and Reemerging Diseases Network, which consists of multidisciplinary teams of investigators working in more than 30 countries.

The Centers for Emerging and Reemerging Diseases Network will be coordinated by the Research Triangle Institute, a large nonprofit research organization with regional and project offices in more than 75 countries, and Duke University. Together they will serve as the CREID Coordination Center.

Read the full story from UW Medicine.