In late 2019, a group of infectious disease experts had an idea — to create a coalition among leaders in the public and private sectors that could help prepare for how the global health community responds to emerging pandemics and collaborate to end major viral pandemics.
As the initial program formed between Abbott and Global Virus Network (GVN) — a global coalition of medical virologists — the group quickly realized they would be developing a blueprint for pandemic preparedness, while in the middle of one.
"We are seeing first-hand the urgent need for collaboration when it comes to a novel virus that becomes a pandemic," says Christian Bréchot, M.D., Ph.D., and president of the Global Virus Network (GVN). "By having this coalition in place, we are essentially creating the instructional manual for how we respond to emerging pandemics, while also creating the vehicle to do so."
A Global Virus Coalition
The GVN Healthcare & Pharma Centers of Excellence Coalition was first created in late 2019 as a way to bring together the world's foremost virologists and prominent companies to catalyze and facilitate the development, evaluation and testing of diagnositcs, therapeutics, treatments and vaccines for viral epidemics and pandemics that pose a threat to public health.
As a leader in infectious disease testing and blood screening, Abbott joined as the inaugural member of the coalition.
"We know that every day matters when it comes to responding to a pandemic, which is why collaboration and preparedness are critical," said Gavin Cloherty, Ph.D., head of Infectious Disease Research, Diagnostics, Abbott. "With this partnership, we are creating a SWAT team of highly trained scientists to share knowledge, techniques and innovative tests and technologies to better understand both existing and emerging viruses."
The collaboration with GVN plans to focus on three initial areas:
- Strengthening preparedness.
- Sharing research on known pathogens and emerging pathogens.
- Providing insights on the potential impact of this research.
Collaboration During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the early weeks of the pandemic, Abbott brought together a team of its scientists to develop diagnostic and antibody tests to detect the virus and the antibodies that develop after an infection.
One of the key elements for developing these tests were virus samples to ensure the accuracy of our test. Through the Centers of Excellence program, Abbott collaborated with GVN to identify additional virus samples in different patient populations and has worked with GVN to determine new locations to conduct research.
The coalition is also developing the framework to collaborate and share research on the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 ) virus. Abbott and GVN are establishing a SARS-CoV-2 biobank — or repository that stores biology samples — to study and validate antibody tests.
Planning for the Future
From Smallpox, to HIV or the latest efforts for COVID-19, history has shown the impact infectious diseases can have and the need to stay ahead of emerging viruses.
The Centers of Excellence will take learnings developed for the fight against COVID-19 to prepare for future pandemics.
"In the early days of the pandemic, data-sharing was critical to helping the research community understand the virus. We can take the infrastructure from our SARS-CoV-2 biobank in development and use it as a template for future emerging viruses," said Cloherty.
By developing an integrated global network of scientists and industry leaders, the healthcare community can work together to help in the fight against our current pandemic and quickly respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.