Abbott has formed the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition, a “first-of-its-kind” global scientific and public health partnership for the early detection of, and rapid response to, future pandemic threats. By connecting global centres of excellence in laboratory testing, genetic sequencing and public health research, the programme will identify new pathogens, analyse potential risk level, rapidly develop and deploy new diagnostic testing and assess public health impact in real-time, the company said in a press release.
According to the company, the coalition is “designed” to help the global scientific and health community identify new viral threats, take quick action when one is discovered, and help prevent future pandemics. The sequences of the viruses that are found will be published in a public database so that health officials and laboratories can work together to identify if it is a novel strain or a virus that has previously been detected. This programme expands upon the viral surveillance and discovery work that Abbott has performed over the last three decades.
“We cannot fight what we cannot see coming. This programme establishes a global network of ‘eyes on the ground’ that are always looking for threats, which helps the global health community to stay one step ahead of the next viral threat, and allows us to utilise Abbott’s expertise and technology to quickly develop tests to address them,” said Gavin Cloherty, PhD, head of infectious disease research at Abbott. “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated a clear need for advanced surveillance and viral sequencing – and the critically important role of testing. Understanding what pathogenic threats are emerging will help us test, diagnose and hopefully help prevent the next pandemic.”
Abbott is playing an “important” role in helping to monitor for new variants or mutations to the virus that causes Covid-19. The company is collecting virus samples from around the world and looking for any changes (mutations) to the virus’s genetic sequencing, Cloherty said.
“With decades of experience in viral surveillance, Abbott specifically designs its tests, including Covid-19 tests, with viral evolution in mind. As new strains are discovered, Abbott vigorously analyzes them so it can ensure its diagnostic tests can detect them. The coalition provides the network to collaborate with other leading institutions on this effort,” Cloherty added.
A Global Force of Scientific Experts Focused on Outsmarting Viruses
The new Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition consists of global collaborators specialising in virus identification, surveillance, sample collection, testing and data analytics. The process to identify potential new viral threats begins with physicians across the network identifying patients with unknown conditions that they cannot treat or diagnose. “Next, patient samples are tested by our partners on a global scale followed by genetic sequencing and analyses to spot trends and identify peculiarities that may indicate an emerging threat or outbreak. If a potential threat is discovered, Abbott will quickly develop diagnostic testing to assist in containment efforts,” Cloherty informed.
Abbott’s growing network of partners includes organisations in strategic geographic locations: Colombia/Wisconsin One-Health Consortium at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, Colombia; Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; Institut de Rechercheen Santé, de Surveillance Epidémiologique et de Formations (IRESSEF), Dakar, Senegal; KRISP, Genomic Centre of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; Rush University System for Health, Chicago, US; The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica; Universidade de So Paulo, So Paulo, Brazil; and YRG Care, Chennai. Abbott is in talks with additional non-governmental organizations, governments and research centres of excellence regarding participation and collaboration.
“We already have a robust collaboration with Abbott related to HIV and viral hepatitis among vulnerable Indian populations. As part of these collaborations the Abbott team trained several Indian researchers in cutting-edge molecular epidemiological methods that have not only helped track the evolution of these viruses but could also inform the design of public health programs,” said Dr Sunil Suhas Solomon, Chairman YRGCARE, India. “We look forward to expanding our work and contributing to a sophisticated network like the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that borders and countries only exist on maps. Viruses and pathogens transcend all these man-made boundaries highlighting the need for establishing a global network to monitor for emerging and re-emerging threats.”