EcoHealth Alliance and Boston University Awarded $1 Million to Predict and Prevent Future Pandemics

NEW YORK – 30, AUGUST, 2022 – EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), in partnership with Boston University, was awarded a $1 million Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention Phase I (PIPP) grant by the National Science Foundation. The team of scientists will strategize methods of early infectious disease detection and intervention.

“EcoHealth has championed analytical approaches to predicting pandemics for the last 25 years. This new collaboration with global leaders at BU & our own leaders in emerging disease research takes our work to the next level” said EcoHealth Alliance President, Dr. Peter Daszak.

EHA researchers will focus on predictive models of location and likely pathogens. This will be accomplished by first compiling a list of mutagenic RNA viruses with a high risk of spillover based on their ability to spread, cause outbreak, and cause severe illness. Next, the team will identify locations at risk of spillover and localized spread by assembling a list of animals known to host one or more of the focal viruses. 

Drawing upon recent research published in Nature Communications, Sánchez et. al, A strategy to assess spillover risk of bat SARS-related coronaviruses in Southeast Asia, the EHA team will also determine biologically realistic species distributions and identify regions where human-animal contact may be more likely to occur. Finally, to characterize within-year variation in spillover risk, the team will integrate information on seasonal differences in host and human activity.

“Our recent work has found that pathogen spillover from wildlife to humans likely occurs more often than previously recognized, but may typically go undetected. We now have the chance to look for those undetected early cases and minimize potential onward spread.” stated Dr. Cecilia Sánchez, team member and EHA Research Scientist. 

Boston University faculty members will detect local disease clusters, characterize pathogens of interest, predict the risk of local outbreaks transitioning into pandemics, and determine mitigation and response strategies. By combining their findings, the team aims to prevent small clusters of disease emergence from turning into future pandemics. 

“The COVID pandemic and recent monkeypox epidemic have shown us that we’re not yet prepared to meet the challenge of pandemic prevention or response. This project will address the challenge of predicting where outbreaks may occur, detecting them faster when they do, and developing interventions that directly address factors that can keep small clusters from becoming global pandemics: human activity, policies, and effective communication.” emphasized Dr. Jon Epstein, one of the lead investigators on the project and EHA Vice President for Science and Outreach.

Partners

Boston University, Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering – Promoting discovery and innovations across a broad set of disciplines. https://www.bu.edu/hic/

Read their release here: https://www.bu.edu/hic/2022/08/03/faculty-across-five-bu-research-centers-will-work-together-to-prevent-future-pandemics/

About EcoHealth Alliance:

EcoHealth Alliance is an international environmental health nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife and the public from emerging infectious diseases. We work with governments, scientists, and policymakers around the world to make critical changes for pandemic prediction and prevention. Our dedicated scientists conduct field research and develop tools to safeguard the health of the planet, people, and wildlife.

Press Contact: Majelia Ampadu, ampadu@ecohealthalliance.org

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