USF Health receives access to international virology research through Global Virus Network

In an effort to extend past collaborations and bring new virology knowledge to the Tampa Bay area, GVN will be establishing its southeast regional headquarters at USF Public Health. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

The Global Virus Network (GVN) named USF Health its new southeast regional headquarters Feb. 23 after two years of collaboration to promote research for the development of vaccines and prevention of future pandemics worldwide.

As the new southeast regional headquarters, faculty and students will be able to collaborate with members of the GVN — an international coalition of researchers studying virology — to enhance its own research of virology and infectious diseases. USF Health students and staff will also have access to the GVN’s resources for research, such as genome sequences, immunological analyses and clinical data.

The GVN partnership will also allow USF Health to access the platform and connections of GVN centers across the globe to share their research with and work with others to have improved diagnostics, therapies and vaccine developments.

By having a headquarters location at USF, the GVN also hopes to enhance and educate Tampa Bay’s local teaching hospitals. The university was chosen to serve as the hub for the southeast region for the GVN due to its quickly developing growth as a research university, preeminent status as well as its previous two-year partnership with the GVN, according to Vice President of the GVN and USF alum Linman Li.

“USF will also act as an ambassador for the GVN,” said Li. “By promoting research in virology and advocating for public health within the region, USF Health will also gain an increase in virology researchers and scientists, which will help USF gain more prestige and authority on a regional, national and global level.”

Li also expressed that she is hopeful the partnership will also help increase USF’s medical school rankings, as well as promote greater amounts of federal research funding.

GVN President and professor at the Morsani College of Medicine Christian Bréchot joined USF in 2018, which allowed both organizations to interact together. Last fall, the GVN and the USF Initiative on Microbiomes launched their first online course together, “Microbiomes and Their Impact on Viral Infections,” taught to students and health professionals to provide greater insight into the role microbiomes play in the propagation and prevention of infectious diseases.

The first course of action will be to launch another course in partnership with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine that focuses on microbiomes and viral infection, reminiscent of a course already taught at the GVN global headquarters in Baltimore. Launching the course online will allow the information about infection and microbiomes to be accessible to more people at their convenience all over the world.

By having different regional headquarters for an international virus coalition, Bréchot said global strategy and collaboration will be ensured through sharing resources and virology research findings with the public.

“We need reliable channels for dissemination of scientific knowledge and information sharing during the pandemic,” said Bréchot.

“GVN and newly established USF Health GVN U.S. Southeast Regional Headquarters can contribute to this global collaboration effort by assisting the [United Nations], [World Health Organization], [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations], Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations to serve this purpose.”

Li was also optimistic that the partnership will lead to better health care in the Tampa Bay area and give the students, faculty and staff greater opportunities for research and innovation.

“What we’re focusing on is in virology and infectious diseases, however, we are open for other opportunities to collaborate because there’s no boundary between different scientific projects,” said Li.

The GVN’s leadership hopes the partnership will leave an impact on different colleges within USF, including the Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health and Taneja College of Pharmacy, which will allow students to work with world-renowned virologists, scholars and researchers.

“We don’t want to focus on one specific branch [of USF colleges],” said Li. “We open our door to anyone seeking our help or our resources.”

Li said the GVN is looking for students of all disciplines to offer them employment opportunities and internships in fields such as mass communication, digital marketing and graphic design, which would in turn promote the GVN’s initiatives using skills they’ve learned in the classroom.

“We are trying to not only attract more federal or government research funding, but also to help USF scientists and the student body to be able to work with more scientists worldwide,” said Li.

By having students work with world-renowned scientists, the GVN hopes to have a force of well-versed virologists.

“All of these programs have one goal,” said Li. “To educate the next generation of virologists to prevent future pandemics.”