The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a contract to researchers at The Johns Hopkins University to launch a new center devoted to developing new ways to identify and track influenza viruses worldwide.
One of the center's primary goals will be to rapidly identify new influenza virus strains that have the potential to emerge as the next seasonal influenza or global pandemic.
Under terms of the contract from NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins will be one of five U.S. institutions to be a part of the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. Institutions in the network will pursue independent research projects and collaborate on others.
"We are really honored to be awarded this contract," said Richard Rothman, a co-director the new Johns Hopkins center. "It's a testament to the caliber of the influenza research we've been doing here in the Hopkins community for a number of years.
"We have an outstanding team of investigators who will come together through this center, advancing innovative approaches that will bridge large-scale surveillance with basic discovery. The goal is that our work will benefit public health in the U.S. and on a global scale."
The Johns Hopkins team plans to track human influenza virus strains in the U.S. and Taiwan as part of an effort build a database of flu cases in real time from hospitals and other health care facilities. The data will be stored in a central, cloud-based computer network so that researchers across the network can access the information for their own projects and share insights and findings.
Other projects the Johns Hopkins center will focus on include:
- Using human cell cultures to determine the likelihood of influenza viruses infecting humans
- Using advanced computer modeling to assess how well different public health intervention strategies work to slow or mitigate an emerging pandemic
- Using global modeling to assess a country or region's risk for an epidemic or pandemic
- Developing tactical response training programs for medical support and virus surveillance for a pandemic