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USAID Announces Second Phase of Predict Project with Global Partners

NEW YORK – November 21, 2014

International Consortium Working to Predict and Prevent Global Emerging Disease Threats

 

EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, joins forces with an international consortium to predict and prevent global emerging disease threats.  As part of the second phase of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program – the PREDICT project will build on its long-standing efforts in disease surveillance and response.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is developing multiple initiatives to help prepare the world for emerging infectious diseases like pandemic influenza, SARS, and Ebola. Other partners within USAID’s EPT program include the PREPAREDNESS & RESPONSE and ONE HEALTH WORKFORCE projects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

For the past five years, the One Health Institute at the University of California-Davis has led a global consortium of implementing partners in conducting pathogen surveillance, viral discovery, and global health capacity strengthening in more than 20 countries. In that time, the PREDICT project team equipped, supplied, and trained staff in 32 diagnostic laboratories around the world to safely and properly process and test wildlife samples for viruses of pathogenic potential; trained 2,500 government personnel, physicians, veterinarians, resource managers, laboratory technicians, hunters, and students in biosafety, surveillance, laboratory techniques, and outbreak investigations; discovered more than 800 novel viruses at high-risk pathogen transmission interfaces; and responded to 24 disease outbreaks, including multiple Ebola outbreaks in central Africa. The new award will build on the success of the first phase of PREDICT by continuing to strengthen health capacity and by intensifying pathogen surveillance and risk assessment activities in geographic areas and animal-human interfaces identified as high-risk for disease emergence and spread in collaboration with other US government, international, and host country partners.

 

Tragically, the world is currently responding to the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The extreme challenges faced in this response are amplified by the lack of public knowledge on the virus and its potential hosts and transmission. Unfortunately, the countries in West Africa were not expecting or prepared for this epidemic, primarily because there was previously no evidence that the Ebola virus was present in that region of Africa.

 

In contrast, during a separate Ebola outbreak in this same time period in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the PREDICT team and other partners were actively engaged with the government and inserted into the public health infrastructure, sick individuals were detected much more quickly. Samples were tested and control measures implemented all within just days of the first signs of illness. The rapid response and significantly reduced death toll in DRC illustrate what can be achieved when a One Health workforce is trained, employed, and able to be activated in the face of extreme health challenges.

 

“Our work has shown that emerging diseases are on the rise and represent a growing threat to our health, our economies, and our global security. This next phase of funding allows us to identify the activities that cause diseases to emerge in high risk disease ‘hotspots’ so that we can minimize the impacts of a new virus spilling over and infecting people,” added Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance, a partner in the PREDICT project consortium.

 

In this second and new phase, the PREDICT project will continue to focus surveillance on viral families of epidemic and pandemic potential. These include coronaviruses, the viral family to which SARS and MERS belong, influenza viruses, and filoviruses, such as Ebola. This second phase will also increase focus on the effects of human behavior and other drivers for disease emergence and spread, with a focus on livestock and people living in high-risk areas for disease spillover and transmission. By working with social and behavioral scientists in a transdisciplinary approach, PREDICT will integrate virus detection with investigations of human-animal interactions and the social and cultural reasons for those interactions. This “One Health” approach is designed to improve our understanding of the dynamics of zoonotic disease spillover, evolution, amplification, and spread in order to inform future prevention and control measures.

 

The One Health Institute at the University of California-Davis will execute the project in a coordinated consortium with EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, Smithsonian Institution, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, along with valued technical partners at Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, HealthMap at Boston Children’s Hospital, International Society for Infectious Disease, and the University of California San Francisco’s Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center.

 

“PREDICT and its partners have enabled a platform for effective collaboration across disciplines and geographic borders to promote global health problem solving,” said Dr. Jonna Mazet, Director of the One Health Institute and Principal Investigator of the new award. “We can now attack problems, like Ebola, before they start – reducing fear and improving response and control.”

 

The consortium will continue to work closely with partner organizations in each country, as well as with a network of laboratories, universities, government ministries, and agencies in these global hotspots for disease emergence. PREDICT is engaged in the Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia regions, working in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and Vietnam, along with a new focus in West Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak.

 

The consortium is united by their belief in the One Health approach, which employs the knowledge that the health of animals, people, and the environment are inextricably linked to solve global health problems.

 

“The new funding for PREDICT will allow our One Health Institute investigators and their partners to continue to identify pandemic threats and build capacity in developing regions worldwide. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has an extensive history of excellence in public health programs that address societal needs. This new funding will ensure our research teams continued contributions to enhance capabilities to prevent future pandemics.” According to Mazet, “attempts to date to control deadly viruses have been almost entirely reactionary due to structural and technological limitations. The world is now poised to be able to identify the key processes influencing the evolution, spillover, amplification, and spread of pathogen threats in order to halt them at their source.”

 

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About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health.  Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building.  Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance’s strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives.  For more information, please visit www.ecohealthalliance.org.  Twitter: @EcoHealthNYC

 

About USAID

USAID is the lead U.S. Government Agency providing foreign development and humanitarian assistance. The agency’s Global Development Alliance (GDA) links U.S. foreign assistance with the resources, expertise and creativity of the private sector as well as nongovernmental organizations. Since its launch in 2001, the Global Development Alliance has changed the way many U.S. international development projects are financed and implemented. USAID has cultivated more than 900 public-private alliances with over 1,700 individual partners to benefit development programming. www.usaid.gov

 

About the UC Davis One Health Institute

The One Health Institute is active all over the world, working at the interface of animals, people, and the environment to solve complex problems that impact health and conservation. The Institute grew out of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s deep commitment to the One Health approach and is home to the well-established Wildlife Health Center. Executive Director, Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD and our scientists and educators provide innovation and leadership to UC Davis, the UC system, state and federal agencies, and to partners around the globe. www.onehealthinstitute.net

 

About the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s mission is to advance the health of animals, people and the environment. To carry out this mission, we focus on students of our professional Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program, graduate clinical residency program and graduate academic MS and PhD programs. The School of Veterinary Medicine serves the people of California by providing educational, research, clinical service, and public service programs of the highest quality to advance the health and care of animals, the health of the environment, and public health, and to contribute to the economy. We address the health of all animals, including livestock, poultry, companion animals, captive and free-ranging wildlife, exotic animals, birds, aquatic mammals and fish, and animals used in biological and medical research. Our expertise also encompasses related human health concerns. www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu

 

About Metabiota

Metabiota develops systems to mitigate microbial threats. Metabiota is a for-profit company specializing in disease and pathogen detection, evaluation, and response through the integration of field and lab research with health data analytics. Metabiota has a demonstrated track record in international collaboration, scientific and public health surveillance capacity-building, and research with high public health impact. Metabiota is focused on scientific leadership, community health development and education, and exploratory research. Metabiota maintains offices in San Francisco, CA, Washington, DC, Nanaimo, Canada and Guangzhou, China.

 

About the Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution was chartered in 1846 for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. Currently, SI has long-term research operations throughout the world, and hosts several large international science networks, including Center for Tropical Forest Science, Consortium for the Barcode of Life (www.barcoding.si.edu), the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org), the newly developed Smithsonian Global Health program, The Smithsonian Institute for Biodiversity Genomics, and the Global Genome Initiative. All are multi-million dollar per year programs involving complex communications, collaborations, logistics, and planning. SI works in close partnership with multiple government agencies, including hosting some 100 federal staff within Smithsonian facilities (USDA, NOAA, DOD, USGS, FAA, EPA). Some of these partnerships have been in place since the 1880s.

 

About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org. Follow: @thewcs.

 

Press Contact: Anthony M. Ramos, ramos@ecohealthalliance.org, 212.380.4469

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