UW-Madison GHI named Center of Excellence in Global Virus Network

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) has been named a Center of Excellence in the Global Virus Network (GVN), Robert Gallo, GVN co-founder, and Christian Bréchot, GVN president, announced last week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review and the Russian Federation’s Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza were also named to join GVN’s network of 48 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries.

“The addition of these three Centers deepen our viral expertise in basic science, zoonotic and vaccine and drug therapy expertise, among other advantages,” Gallo said in a press release. “UW-Madison is an impressive institution with a number of top virologists who will contribute to the GVN’s overall research and translational programs and global reach.”

“GVN is an international consortium of Centers for Excellence in virology,” says GHI Associate Director Tony Goldberg, who co-directs the new center with virologist Yoshi Kawaoka, a member of the GHI Advisory Committee. “UW-Madison’s historical and current preeminence in virology make us a natural fit for GVN,” Goldberg says.

Goldberg and Kawaoka are professors in the School of Veterinary Medicine Department of Pathobiological Sciences. Kawaoka also directs the Influenza Research Institute. The new center also includes representatives from across campus (see list below) that showcases the deep diversity of virus research at UW-Madison.

GHI will serve as the contact unit for the new GVN Center. “GHI’s position as an umbrella unit across campus makes it ideally suited to coordinate this effort and to join GVN’s efforts to respond rapidly to global viral threats,” Goldberg says.

GVN notes that virology research at UW-Madison includes studies of agents infecting humans, animals and plants, including highly pathogenic viruses such as the Ebola virus and viruses with pandemic potential such as Influenza, Dengue and Zika. UW-Madison is strong with respect to viruses that cause human cancer and the biochemistry of host-virus interaction.

The three new GVN Centers’ activities range from basic research to the development of vaccines and therapeutics to public health and policy, according to the press release. UW-Madison has specific strengths in emerging viral pathogens and zoonoses, including rapid detection and characterization of novel viral agents, the development of animal models (especially primates) and the development of countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics. The Center will work close with colleagues at the Colombia-Wisconsin One-Health Consortium, also a GVN Center of Excellence, led by Jorge Osorio, a UW professor of pathobiological sciences.

“With our new GVN membership, and in partnership with Dr. Osorio, we will expand the range of global training opportunities for our graduate students as well as provide the GVN with expertise in diverse viral systems of global importance and highly specialized methodologies,” Goldberg and Kawaoka say. “We especially look forward to strengthening our international training opportunities and forging new scientific collaborations with members of the GVN.”

Several other virologists at UW-Madison are GVN contacts for their respective units and showcase the deep diversity of virus research on campus:

  • Lyric Bartholomay, director, Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease (CDC-funded Center). Research in the Bartholomay lab focuses on arboviruses, and in particular invertebrate Immunobiology and innate immune responses to viruses in mosquitoes, ticks, and cultured shrimp.
  • Kristen Bernard, president of the American Society for Virology (2019-2020) and Department of Pathobiological Sciences. Research in the Bernard lab focuses on the pathogenesis of arthropod-borne viruses, including West Nile and Zika viruses, using in vitro and in vivo models to understand mechanisms of virulence and attenuation.
  • James Conway, director of Global Health, School of Medicine and Public Health, and associate director for Health Sciences, Global Health Institute. Conway’s research focuses on global vaccine programs, including improving systems for prevention of pediatric viral disease through strengthening immunization programs around the world.
  • Thomas Friedrich, director of Virology Services, Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Research in the Friedrich lab focuses on mechanisms by which RNA viruses overcome evolutionary barriers to emerge and cause disease, with an emphasis on global campaigns against pandemic influenza, Zika and AIDS.
  • Paul Friesen, director Institute for Molecular Virology, focuses on research and training in virology, primarily at the molecular level.
  • James Gern, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine and Public Health. Research in the Gern lab endeavors to understand the role of viral infections in the initiation and disease activity of asthma, and to identify interactions between host and viral factors that determine the severity of respiratory illnesses.
  • Paul Lambert, director, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research. Research in the Lambert lab is focused on understanding the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in cancer and the use of genetically engineered mice to study HPV-associated cervical, anal, and head/neck carcinogenesis.
  • Andrew Mehle, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology. Research in the Mehle lab focuses on the pathogenesis of, and immune response to, HIV, influenza virus, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis C virus, and other viruses.
  • David O’Connor, director, AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory. Research in the O’Connor lab focuses on HIV, Zika virus, influenza virus, and other viruses, emphasizing genomics and non-human primate models.
  • Jorge Osorio, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, and co-founder, Inviragen. Research in the Osorio lab focuses on vaccine development and global studies of dengue, Zika, chikungunya, influenza, rabies, west Nile, enteroviruses, monkeypox among other viruses
  • Ann Palmenberg, Department of Biochemistry. Research in the Palmenberg lab focuses on the biology and biochemistry of picornaviruses, including molecular mechanisms, virus structures, biochemistry and cell biology by which these viruses, specifically human rhinoviruses, contribute and shape episodes of respiratory disease.