09 Jun UW–Madison joins Rockefeller Foundation’s pandemic prevention institute
The Rockefeller Foundation, a philanthropy focused on health, science and social issues, today announced efforts to create an international pandemic prevention institute. By building a network of more than 20 public, private and nonprofit partners around the world, the foundation’s support is intended to help quickly thwart potential pandemic threats wherever they occur.
Among the largest goals of the institute, which will foster and fund collaborations, is to bolster genomic sequencing efforts globally, including in South Africa and parts of Asia. In the U.S., Rockefeller will support what it dubs Regional Accelerators for Genomic Surveillance, which includes the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Florida, and others. UW–Madison will also work with partners in Minneapolis; Michigan; Marshfield, Wisconsin; and Milwaukee.
Since last year, researchers at the AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory have performed a high level of genomic sequencing on the virus that causes COVID-19, combing the genetic identities of as much as five percent of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in Dane County. Nationally, scientists have sampled less than two percent of all positive cases. Genomic sequencing can provide a wealth of information about pathogens and how they spread.
“Rockefeller is trying to link different groups in the public health and academic spaces together,” says Shelby O’Connor, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “We are starting to explore how we can branch out to other areas in the region and continue to further develop what we’ve already started here.”
The support will advance research that can be used to inform and develop new tools for public health, explains AVRL scientist and UW School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Thomas Friedrich, and produce public health data that can be used to fuel research.