Sponsored By

RCSA, USDA fund 7 team projects in Mitigating Zoonotic Threats

Projects include identifying neutralizing antibodies against the African swine fever virus; impact of climate in forecasting highly pathogenic avian influenza.

January 4, 2023

4 Min Read

Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the USDSA have awarded seven multidisciplinary teams of early career scientists in the second year of the Scialog: Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative.

The 18 individual awards of $50,000 each in direct costs will go to 16 researchers from a variety of institutions, including two USDA agencies working together at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility — the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Agricultural Research Service.

The funded projects include five new partnerships among USDA and academic scientists.

"Bringing people together from different disciplines makes better science," said RCSA President and CEO Dan Linzer. "At Scialog, you can ask big questions you might not be ready to attack on your own. With partners who complement your own thinking and expertise, new directions become possible."

The second meeting of the initiative, held Sept. 15-18, 2022, in Tucson, Arizona, came as the COVID pandemic's latest wave, resurgent avian influenza and a growing global monkeypox outbreak served as reminders of the need for advances in the detection and mitigation of diseases that cross over from animal to human populations.

"Most emerging infectious diseases that affect people are zoonotic, and the rate of new disease emergence is unprecedented," said USDA/ARS Deputy Administrator Jeff Silverstein. "Investing in innovation, and in our greatest assets – our scientists – is critical to supporting global public health and food security."

Scialog is short for "science + dialog." Created in 2010 by RCSA, the Scialog format supports research by stimulating intensive interdisciplinary conversation and community building around a scientific theme of global importance. Planned before the COVID pandemic, the Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative has brought together researchers from a variety of disciplines and interests including biology, chemistry, environmental science, computer modeling, ecology, epidemiology, physics, public health and veterinary science.

"Reducing the spread of disease and the risk of virus mutating and spilling over to other species are complex problems to solve," said Suelee Robbe-Austerman, director, USDA/APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories. "Increased population density of animals and people, changing of the climate, the effect of wildlife – these all require collaboration and a holistic response."

The following Mitigating Zoonotic Threats teams will receive 2022 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Awards:

Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau, Cooperative Wildlife Research Lab, Southern Illinois University, 
Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, Environmental Sciences, Emory University
Measuring and Modeling Mosquito Flight and Movement Behavior at High Spatiotemporal Resolution

Gisselle Medina, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, USDA/ARS
Angad Mehta, Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Identifying and Engineering Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies Against African Swine Fever Virus

Nicholas DeFelice, Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Kimberly A. Lehman, Diagnostics and Biologics, USDA/APHIS Veterinary Services
Sen Pei, Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University
Impact of Climate Variability on Foreign Animal Disease: Forecasting Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Pilar Fernandez, Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University,
Silvie Huijben, Life Sciences, Arizona State University
Incorporating Human Behavioral Systems in Insecticide Resistance Management for Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Daniel Becker, Biology, University of Oklahoma
Claudia Herrera, Tropical Medicine, Tulane University
Steven M. Lakin, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, USDA/APHIS
Metagenomic-guided Tests of Zoonotic Pathogen Diversity in Migratory Wildlife

Kristin Koutmou, Chemistry, University of Michigan
Gisselle Medina, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, USDA/ARS
Lars Plate, Chemistry and Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
Impact of Synonymous Mutation on Translation Speed and Protein Folding During Host Adaptation

Claudia Herrera, Tropical Medicine, Tulane University
Dana Mitzel, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, USDA/ARS
Xiaohu Xia, Chemistry, University of Central Florida
A Sensitive Lateral Flow Assay for Point-of-Care Testing of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases

September's three-day conference engaged participants in a series of conversations to discuss challenges and gaps in current knowledge, build deeper ties and promote the sharing of knowledge and expertise, and form teams to write proposals for high-risk, high-reward projects based on the innovative ideas that emerged at the conference.

Keynote presentations by Amy Vincent, USDA/ARS, and Michael Wimberly, University of Oklahoma, set the stage for breakout discussions. Vincent explained the dynamics of Influenza A at the human-swine interface, and its implications for public health and pandemic planning. Wimberly discussed human-caused climate change and its effects on infectious disease transmission.

Along with Vincent and Wimberly, discussions were led by facilitators: Sara Cherry, University of Pennsylvania; Linda Detwiler, USDA/APHIS; Peter Dorhout, Iowa State University; Matt Erdman, USDA/APHIS; Zac Schultz, Ohio State University; Wilfred van der Donk, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; and William Wilson, USDA/ARS.

The conference also included informal poster sessions and an interactive panel discussion with recipients of last year's team awards.

The third meeting of Scialog: Mitigating Zoonotic Threats is scheduled for Sept. 7-10, 2023, in Tucson.

Source: Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Subscribe to Our Newsletters
National Hog Farmer is the source for hog production, management and market news

You May Also Like