The Grandmasters of Virus Surveillance

Our Pandemic Defense Coalition supports infectious disease research through Virus Hunter mentorships for epidemiologists.
May 2, 2022 8:30 AM ET
Article

Pawn to c3. Pawn to h6. Knight to a3.

Chess players are known to make a mental map of their future moves. The goal: be as prepared as possible by predicting an opponent’s potential moves and formulating a response, even if that response ends up unnecessary.

Think of an epidemiologist as an advanced chess player, an individual who studies the world’s patterns of infectious diseases to stay several steps ahead of viral threats. Thanks to Abbott’s Pandemic Defense Coalition (APDC), future Virus Hunters can learn from the public health-equivalent to chess grandmasters: highly experienced infectious disease experts — including epidemiologists and virologists — who have worked through outbreaks, endemics, epidemics and pandemics.

The spread of infectious diseases has become more rapid — and more expected — over time because of globalization, population growth and closer contact between humans and animals. That’s why we need to recruit and inspire next-generation Virus Hunters.

To do that, Abbott’s Pandemic Defense Coalition is bringing more trained Virus Hunters to the front lines. This first-of-its-kind, industry-led, global scientific network is dedicated to the early detection of, and rapid response to, future pandemic threats. It joined forces with the globally recognized Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), which actively trains field epidemiologists in more than 165 countries to maintain a strong public health workforce.

“By developing the next generation of Virus Hunters to find, identify and monitor the latest viruses in diverse, under-resourced geographies throughout world, we can work faster and better connect scientists to raise the global alarm for future viral threats,” said Dr. Gavin Cloherty, head of infectious disease research at Abbott and head of the Coalition.

Making up a diverse class of geographies and projects, the trainees are researching top infectious disease challenges while being aided by mentors to bolster their scientific knowledge and skills. Studies will be conducted in seven countries, covering diseases such as Black Water Fever, West Nile Virus and Hepatitis C. Conducting field epidemiology research through projects like these is important for global health because it gives future epidemiologists the opportunity to learn by doing and to interact closely with the communities who are most affected by infectious diseases.

“The grants provided to each field epidemiologist in training are invaluable for their professional growth,” said Dr. Carl Reddy, director of TEPHINET. “Participating in Field Epidemiology Training Programs gives trainees a great opportunity to step into their critical role as a resource for public health systems.”

This is How We ‘Checkmate’ Infectious Diseases

Effectively cornering a viral threat requires ongoing surveillance, research and information sharing across the world. Conducting this work and sharing research findings with the global community helps scientists work toward answers for the diseases that the world has been fighting for years, like HIV and hepatitis, while ringing the alarm bells for new disease outbreaks. With more Virus Hunters on the ground who are trained in the latest technological advancements in public health research, we can better prepare for future outbreaks.

Like a chess grandmaster, surveilling the board — the world — to proactively plan a defense helps global health entities respond faster and more effectively. Monitoring viruses over time and “capturing” viruses of concern to analyze and act on is important to stop outbreaks in their tracks.

This is how we help prevent the next pandemic.

Queen to e8. Checkmate.