Members of The Lancet COVID Commission Task Force on the Origins of SARS-CoV-2 Named

NEW YORK – November 23, 2020 – As cases surge globally and disruption continues, many questions remain about COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind this pandemic. Chief among them: Where did it come from, how did it escape our control, and how can we stop future pandemics like COVID-19? These questions will be the focus of an international task force led by Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit working at the intersection of animal, environmental, and human health on a global scale. The task force is part of The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, chaired by Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University.

"We intend to conduct a thorough and rigorous investigation into the origins and early spread of SARS-CoV-2," Dr. Daszak, a disease ecologist who has spent years studying coronavirus transmission in China and Southeast Asia. "Our group will use the findings to formulate One Health solutions for managing future zoonotic disease risk."

The Lancet task force has 12 members who come from a diverse set of scientific disciplines and backgrounds, with expertise in One Health, outbreak investigation, virology, lab biosecurity and disease ecology. They are:

Dr. Peter Daszak, Chair
Peter Daszak, PhD, is the President of EcoHealth Alliance. A member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, he chairs the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats.

Dr. John Amuasi
John Amuasi, MD PhD, is Director of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases. He lectures at the School of Public Health, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and is Group Leader of the Global Health and Infectious Diseases Research Group at the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine in Ghana.

Dr. Danielle Anderson
Danielle Anderson, PhD, is the Scientific Director of the BSL-3 laboratory at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. Dr. Anderson conducts research on negative-stranded RNA viruses such as measles, mumps, and Nipah virus and her group was the first to isolate SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore.

Dr. Isabella Eckerle
Isabella Eckerle, MD, is a leading virologist, Head of the Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases at the Université de Genève, and has led research on MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Hume Field
Hume Field, DVM PhD, is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland. Dr. Field was a member of the original World Health Organization investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV at wet markets in China’s Guangdong Province and co-led a second mission to identify SARS-CoV research priorities.

Dr. Gerald Keusch
Gerald Keusch, MD, is Associate Director of the BSL-4 National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories laboratory at Boston University. He is the former Director of the NIH Fogarty International Center and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine.

Dr. Dato’ Sai Kit (Ken) Lam
Dato’ Sai Kit (Ken) Lam, PhD, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Malaya, senior fellow of the Malaysian Academy of Sciences and discovered Nipah virus following its initial outbreak in peninsular Malaysia, for which he won the prestigious Merdeka Award.

Dr. Carlos das Neves
Carlos das Neves, DVM PhD Dipl.ECZM, is the Director for Research and Internationalization at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, President of the International Wildlife Disease Association, and the former Hon. Consul of the Portuguese Republic in Norway.

Dr. Malik Peiris
Malik Peiris, PhD FRS, holds the Tam Wah-Ching Professorship, Division of Public Health Laboratory Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Dr. Peiris was the first person to isolate SARS-CoV and is a global leader in coronavirus and influenza virus research.

Dr. Stanley Perlman
Stanley Perlman, MD PhD, is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology as well as the Mark Stinski Chair of Virology at the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine. Dr. Perlman conducts research on several respiratory human coronaviruses including SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Linda J. Saif
Linda J. Saif, PhD, is a Distinguished University Professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program (CFAES) and the Dept of Veterinary Preventative Medicine (CVM) and Co-Director of the Viruses and Emerging Pathogens Program in the Infectious Diseases Institute at The Ohio State University. Dr. Saif is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. As a virologist and mucosal immunologist, she has worked on animal and human coronaviruses,–including pathogenesis, interspecies transmission, immunity, and vaccines–for over four decades.

Dr. Supaporn Wacharapluesadee
Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, PhD, is in the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and Deputy Director of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Centre. Dr. Wachaeapluesadee’s team was the first to positively identify a human COVID-19 infection outside of China.

In its investigation, the task force will recreate COVID-19 outbreak timeline from the end of the SARS outbreak in 2003 up to the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020. They will analyze the available evidence for each of the hypotheses put forward on the origins of COVID-19. They will compare its early spread and control to previous outbreaks to identify strategies that might assist future pandemic prevention, and examine research published between the end of the SARS and December 2019 that highlighted coronavirus risks and could have better prepared us for COVID-19.

"There’s a great deal of interest in understanding how COVID-19 emerged and spread, but also a deeper reason for this task force’s work," The Lancet COVID-19 Commission lead Jeff Sachs said. "If we can understand why this pandemic began, we can help prevent the next one."

More information on The Lancet COVID-19 Commission and this task force can be found here.

About EcoHealth Alliance:
Building on 45 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is the premier nonprofit organization committed to a One Health approach to track the migration of deadly viruses from animals into humans. EcoHealth Alliance research has led to major breakthroughs on the origins and spread of new and emerging diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, Nipah virus, and, now, SARS-CoV-2. EcoHealth Alliance works globally in hotspot regions where the threat of outbreaks is highest. Through innovations in research, training, capacity building, and policy initiatives, we develop tools and interventions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation.
Press contact: Robert Kessler, (212) 380-4469 or kessler@ecohealthalliance.org.

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