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Thursday, July 29, 2021

UC Davis receives $100 million for project that would predict, prevent emerging diseases

UC Davis was recently granted $100 million by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue phase two of the PREDICT project, based at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

PREDICT is part of the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program, an international campaign established by USAID to identify and respond to zoonotic diseases that spread between people, wildlife and livestock. PREDICT intends to find new, emerging viruses and to assist countries in preventing pandemic threats such as influenza, SARS and Ebola. Other projects within EPT include ONE HEALTH WORKFORCE and Prepare and Respond.

The UC Davis One Health Institute, which manages the project, is responsible for many programs and initiatives within the School of Veterinary Medicine. The One Health Institute led a global consortium in the first phase of PREDICT in 2009 and will continue to work with partners such as EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, Smithsonian Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society in this next phase.

According to a UC Health press release, in the first five years of PREDICT, the team will be fully equipped in 32 diagnostic laboratories internationally to analyze wildlife samples for viruses with pathogenic potential. The team consists of “trained 2,500 government personnel, physicians, veterinarians, resource managers, laboratory technicians, hunters and students in biosafety, surveillance, laboratory techniques and outbreak investigations.”

The recent grant will allow the team to continue the project for another five years. Its funding is one of the largest amounts awarded in UC Davis history, following the $75 million grant for phase one of PREDICT.

“What we were able to achieve the first five years has set the bar much higher,” said Matt Blake, chief operations officer of One Health. “The expectation for the next five years is exponentially larger.”

According to Dr. Christine Johnson, professor at the One Health Institute and co-principal investigator for PREDICT, the boost in funding reflects the project’s comprehensivity.

“We’ve added quite a larger scope of work,” Johnson said. “In addition to wildlife, now we’re enabling surveillance for livestock as well as humans, and we’re adding a behavioral risk evaluation component.”

The project’s new behavioral scope seeks to understand human-animal activities and behaviors that are increasing risk. Funding will also be utilized toward surveillance activities and building laboratory capacity around the world to test samples.

During the first phase, PREDICT discovered new viruses that wildlife can carry. With PREDICT 2, the team will integrate previous findings into human studies to better protect people from global health threats.

“The goal is to look at wildlife, domestic animals and humans so that we can really better understand virus sharing between those different groups,” said Dr. Tracey Goldstein, professor at the One Health Institute and co-principal investigator for PREDICT.

Johnson states that the project is one of the largest global efforts in uncovering viruses in wildlife.

The consortium will continue to work in over 20 countries, primarily stationed in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. In addition to the efforts in regions of Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, there will be a new focus in West Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak. Locations were selected according to highest risk.

“What’s most rewarding for me is working with so many labs around the world and seeing people start with something they really didn’t understand, to really excelling in it,” Goldstein said.

 

 

 

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