If the health professionals working on emerging infectious disease prevention succeed wholly in their work, chances are they’ll be among the greatest heroes about whom we never know. All the pandemics that could have spilled over from animals to humans, or been passed from humans to other humans, will have been identified and thwarted or countered with a vaccine before ever having the chance to wreak the devastating havoc of COVID-19. We’ll hear little about the disasters that could have been.
But what will it take to achieve this? The Global Virome Project, largely considered by the scientific community as the forerunner on pandemic research, has estimated that USD 4 billion could fund adequate efforts to identify all future viral threats. But from where should this funding come, and how must it be paired with international collaboration, the re-structuring of health systems, and the conservation of natural habitats and species from which pandemics emerge?
In this GLF Live, Jonna Mazet, who co-leads the Global Virome Project, spoke in concrete terms about the parameters needed on financial, scientific, governance and ecological fronts to prevent the next pandemic.
Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD, is a Professor of Epidemiology and Disease Ecology in the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is also affiliated faculty in the UC San Francisco Institute for Global Health Sciences. Her work focuses on global health problem solving for emerging infectious diseases and conservation challenges. She is active in international One Health education, service, and research programs, most notably in relation to disease transmission among wildlife, domestic animals, and people and the ecological drivers of disease emergence. Currently, Dr. Mazet is the Co-Director of the US Agency for International Development’s One Health Workforce – Next Generation, an $85 million educational strengthening project to empower professionals in Central/East Africa and Southeast Asia to address complex health threats, including antimicrobial resistance and zoonotic diseases. She recently served as the Global Director of PREDICT Project, a greater than $200 million viral emergence early warning project under USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats Division. PREDICT provided the proof-of-concept for the Global Virome Project, for which Mazet serves on the board of directors. She was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine in 2013 in recognition of her successful and innovative approach to emerging environmental and global health threats and serves on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats and chairs the Academies’ One Health Action Collaborative. She was appointed to the National Academies Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, which was created to assist the federal government with critical science and policy issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and other emerging health threats.