CERI & KRISP Newsletter Aug/Sep 2022: Scientific research and surveillance efforts remain under the global spotlight

In the Aug/Sep issue of the 2022 newsletter, UWARN partners from CERI/KRISP reflect on how much the world has changed over the last two years. They state that it is still too early to declare the pandemic over, but it is time to begin thinking about what can be done better and how best to prepare for future threats to global health. While the scientific research and surveillance efforts at CERI & KRISP remain under the global spotlight, their team remains committed to keeping South African and African scientists on the agenda through continued capacity building efforts and strategic collaborations. CERI and KRISP want to challenge the status quo and create a scientific environment in South Africa that drives innovations in global health and reverses the brain drain. A critical function of CERI and KRISP will be to make genomics, epigenetics, and bioinformatics accessible to academic, industrial, and commercial users. The link to the newsletter includes news highlights, publications, and training opportunities.

Senegal Bioinformatics Workshop

IRESSEF and UCAD in Senegal are organizing and hosting a bioinformatics workshop that will include one week of virtual sessions on October 3 - 7, 2022, and one week of in-person sessions in Senegal this October 10 - 15, 2022. This workshop will be held with support from CREID research centers, UWARN, PICREID, WAC-EID, and WARN-ID. The training will cover wet and dry lab components of genomic sequencing and resulting bioinformatics, using SARS-CoV-2 as an example. Learners will gain skills in wet lab processes, genome assembly, quality control, submission to GISAID and NCBI, data interpretation, and discussion, among other skills. This workshop is available to laboratory technologists, post-doctoral research fellows, bioinformaticians, clinical infectious disease specialists, senior scientists, and other roles where training in bioinformatics would be helpful. For more information, please contact ws.bioinf22@iressef.org or Helene McOwen (UWARN Research Coordinator) at hmcowen@uw.edu.

UWARN Pakistan Partner Receives NIH 2022 Pilot Research Program Award

Congratulations to Dr. Najia Ghanchi, Associate Professor in Molecular Pathology and Microbiology sections at AKU, Pakistan, for receiving a NIH 2022 Pilot Research Program award through the CREID Network. Najia will work with UWARN mentor Peter Rabinowitz to evaluate ecological conditions and mass animal movement to urban areas influencing the range of the Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus (CCHFV) vector tick species and its distribution, especially during the festival season (Eid ul Adha, a religious festival Muslims celebrate by ritually slaughtering animals and distributing the meat to the needy every year). The study will also establish in-country next-generation sequencing (NGS) capacity for CCHFV and develop the bioinformatics skill set to process and analyze viral genomic data. Najia and her team will collect ticks from multiple cattle farms and markets to investigate tick infestations of cattle and CCHFV PCR- positive ticks. In addition, they will utilize next-generation sequencing (NGS) to understand the genomic structure of CCHFV and phylogenetic analysis. Their study aim is to establish whether cattle movement from CCHFV-endemic regions of the country contributes to the maintenance of CCHFV reservoir in ticks infesting cattle leading to CCHFV spillover in urban environments. The study will also establish preliminary data points for expanding this study to humans and animals and conduct country-wide studies to inform policy decisions in the future.

UWARN Investigators Awarded PHI Grant

Dr. Noelle Benzekri (Assistant Professor, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and Dr. Peter Rabinowitz (Professor, Depts. of Environmental/Occupational Health Sciences, Family Medicine, Global Health) have been awarded a Population Health Initiative Grant for their study, “The intersection of food security and Planetary Health in Senegal, West Africa: A mixed-methods pilot study”. Dr. Geoff Gottlieb (Professor, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) is Co-Investigator. In collaboration with the non-profit organization, DIG, the findings from this study will be used to identify and develop interventions to improve food security, protect biodiversity, and promote environmental resilience in the region.

UWARN Co-Investigators Benzekri and Gottlieb lead International Epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS in West Africa

Dr. Noelle Benzekri, assistant professor, is Program Lead for Sociobehavioral Research and Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, professor (Allergy and Infectious Diseases) is Co-Investigator for the NIH/NIAD funded U01 International Epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS in West Africa (IeDEA-West Africa). In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Bordeaux and partners across West Africa, this study will use mixed-methods to evaluate cohorts of HIV and HIV-TB co-infected individuals in 8 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. The overarching goal of this study is to identify strategies to improve the HIV care cascade in the region. Dr. Benzekri will also be leading the new IeDEA-West Africa Food Insecurity Research Program.

Marta Giovanetti announced as 2021 "For Women in Science" laureate

L'Oréal Brasil, in partnership with UNESCO in Brazil and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC), has announced UWARN partner Marta Giovanetti of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) as a laureate of the 2021 "For Women in Science" programme.

Detailed analysis by African scientists of SARS-CoV-2 published in Science; UWARN partner Prof Tulio de Oliveira senior author

Paper published in Science by a collaboration of researchers across Africa with UWARN partner Prof. Tulio de Oliveira as the senior author. The paper demonstrates the incredible efforts of 112 African and 25 international organizations monitoring the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in Africa through a year of genomic surveillance.

2022 CREID Pilot Program

The 2022 Pilot Program timeline has been announced. Please see the link below for additional information.

UWARN PI Wes Van Voorhis to moderate WSAS Annual Symposium

UWARN PI Wes Van Voorhis will be moderating a session at the WSAS Annual Symposium on COVID-19: Science and Society on Thursday September 23, 2021 from 10AM-4PM. More information and registration below.

UWARN co-PIs Judith Wasserheit and Peter Rabinowitz supporting TIME magazine article

World Health Assembly to focus on ending COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for next one

UWARN PI co-author on variant immune evasion paper preprint

UWARN PI collaborates with other University of Washington researchers on a paper evaluating the SARS-CoV-2 immune evasion by variant B.1.427/B.1.429

UWARN PI Wes Van Voorhis writes Op-Ed for Seattle Times

Wes Van Voorhis, UWARN Principle Investigator, writes Op-Ed for the Seattle Times on the rise of variants underscoring the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. The Op-Ed highlights the work on SARS-CoV-2 variants of UWARN partners Tulio de Oliveira, Luiz Carlos Junior Alcantara, and Marta Giovanetti.

UWARN Partner Tulio de Oliveira cited in NYT article on variant naming

UWARN Partner Michel Nussenzweig cited in New York Times article on B.1.526 SARS-CoV-2 variant

UWARN partner Tulio de Oliveira highlighted in NIH Director's Blog

UWARN highlighted in UW Department of Global Health news

UWARN highlighted in UW Department of Global Health news for the collaborative effort among UWARN partners to understand new SARS-CoV-2 variants and implications for vaccine efficacy.

UWARN Partner Tulio de Oliviera cited in New York Times

UWARN Partner Tulio de Oliviera of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal cited in New York Times article on the evolving SARS-CoV-2 viruses and British lockdown

UWARN Partner The Aga Khan University's 23rd National Health Sciences Research Symposium​​​

UWARN Collaborators Come Together for CREID Network Inaugural Annual Meeting