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The UWI Partners with Abbott for Pandemic Defense Coalition: A Global Network of Expert Collaborators Designed to Identify and Prevent Future Pandemics

  • Program is dedicated to the early detection of, and rapid response to, future pandemic threats, including COVID-19 variants
  • Together with global collaborators, The UWI will help identify unknown diseases through surveillance, virus sample collection, testing and sequencing 

The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Mona Campus is pleased to announce that it is partnering in the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition, a first-of-its-kind global scientific viral detection network. Together with Abbott and collaborators around the world, The UWI will play a vital role in viral surveillance in Jamaica. As new pathogens are identified, the program will provide laboratory testing, genetic sequencing and public health research to analyze potential risk level, develop new diagnostic testing and understand the public health impact in real time. 

By anticipating new threats, the Coalition will help the global scientific and health community identify new viral strains, taking quick action to help contain and prevent future pandemics. The sequences of the viruses that are found will be published in a public database so that public health officials and laboratories can work together to identify if it is a novel strain, or a virus that has previously been detected. The initiative was brokered through the State University of New York (SUNY) - UWI Health Research Consortium Co-chaired by Professors John Lindo (UWI) and Gene Morse (SUNY).  “This is exactly the type of academic-business collaboration that we envision will provide the foundation for expansion of the UWI research enterprise, and strengthen the role that UWI plays in leading clinical and translational research within the Caribbean. The recent designation of UWI’s Global Virus Network Affiliate Centers at the Mona Campus and the St. Augustine Campus, as well as the NIH Fogarty International Center funded Global Infectious Diseases Research Training Program were key factors in the decision to invite UWI to join the Pandemic Defense Abbott Coalition,” said Professor Gene Morse, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of the SUNY Global Health Institute.

Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona welcomed the alliance stating that “The new partnership with Abbot Laboratories will create opportunities across departments and programmes on the Mona Campus to become a regional research hub for emerging infection. The UWI’s membership in the Pandemic Defense Coalition will contribute significantly to the Caribbean’s preparedness and response to viruses of public health significance.” 

Speaking to the partnership, Professor John Lindo, Professor of Parasite Epidemiology, Department of Microbiology, The UWI Mona and Co-chair, SUNY-UWI Health Research Consortium said, “It will also add, significantly to the diagnostic arsenal available to physicians and researchers. Once established at Mona we intend to include the other campuses of UWI for wider reach across the region.” 

A global force of scientific experts focused on outsmarting viruses  

The new Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition consists of expert global collaborators specializing in virus identification, surveillance, sample collection, testing and data analytics. The process to identify potential new viral threats begins with physicians across the network identifying patients with unknown conditions that they cannot treat or diagnose. Next, patient samples are tested by the program organizations on a global scale, followed by genetic sequencing and analyses to spot trends and identify peculiarities that may indicate an emerging threat or outbreak. If a potential threat is discovered, Abbott will quickly develop and deploy diagnostic testing to assist global public health agencies in anticipating the viral threat and help to contain or stop it before it becomes a pandemic.

"We cannot fight what we cannot see coming. This program establishes a global network of eyes on the ground that are always looking for threats, which helps the global health community to stay one step ahead of the next viral threat, and allows us to utilize Abbott's expertise and technology to quickly develop tests to address them," said Gavin Cloherty, Ph.D., head of infectious disease research at Abbott. "The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated a clear need for advanced surveillance and viral sequencing – and the critically important role of testing. Understanding what pathogenic threats are emerging will help us test, diagnose and ultimately help prevent the next pandemic."  

In addition to The UWI, the growing network of partners currently includes the following organizations in strategic geographic locations: 

  • Colombia/Wisconsin One-Health Consortium at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, Colombia
  • Institut de Recherche en Santé, de Surveillance Epidémiologique et de Formations (IRESSEF), Dakar, Sénégal
  • KRISP, Durban, South Africa
  • Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand
  • Rush University, Chicago, U.S.
  • Universidade de Sa ̃o Paulo, Sa ̃o Paulo, Brazil
  • YRG Care, Chennai, India

The program is in talks with additional non-governmental organizations, governments and research centers of excellence regarding participation and collaboration.

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