International task force announced to look at the origins of EARS-CoV-2, which unleashed it COVID-19 pandemic almost one year ago. The scientific director of Duke-NUS’s ABSL3 facility, named as a task force, quickly benefited Singapore by rapidly isolating SARS-CoV-2, enabling the development of diagnostic tests and evaluation of possible treatments.
Nearly a year since the world first learned of the new coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19, there are still many questions about SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind this pandemic: where did it come from, how did it spread so widely and rapidly, and how can we stop similar outbreaks in the future?
Recently, EcoHealth Alliance, a global non-profit organization working on the intersection of animal, environmental and human health, announced the establishment of an international task force to investigate these issues as part of The Lancet COVID-19 Commission. Dr. Danielle Anderson, Scientific Director of Duke-NUS Medical School’s Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL3) research facility in Singapore, is one of the 12 members of the task force, which comes from a diverse range of scientific disciplines and backgrounds, with expertise in One Health, research into outbreaks, virology, laboratory biosafety and disease ecology.
“This is an important investigation to not only understand the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, but to ensure that history does not repeat itself,” said Dr. Anderson said, who is also assistant professor in Duke-NUS ‘program for emerging infectious diseases. “As a virologist who has worked in high-security biosecurity laboratories worldwide, I look forward to helping carry my experience and expertise in the search for answers.”
The Duke-NUS ABSL3 facility and its knowledgeable scientific staff have been central to the response to COVID-19 in Singapore. In fact, dr. Anderson played a key role in the early isolation of the virus (making Singapore the third country in the world to do so) and subsequently worked to develop a serological test that could specifically detect antibodies that could neutralize the SARS-CoV. -2 virus.
“Understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is critical to the development of preventive measures for the future,” said Professor Thomas Coffman, dean of Duke-NUS Medical School. “We are delighted that Dr Anderson will be representing Duke-NUS and Singapore in this task force, and we are committed to supporting his important work.”
The task team is led by dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, and chaired by dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.
“We intend to conduct a thorough and thorough investigation into the origin and early distribution of SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Daszak, a disease ecologist who has studied coronavirus transmission in China and Southeast Asia for years, said. “Our group will use the findings to formulate One Health solutions for the management of future zoonotic diseases.”
In its investigation, the task force will recreate a complete timeline of the outbreak of COVID-19, from the discovery of RaTG13 – the closest known virus relative to SARS-CoV-2 – in 2013 to the WHO declaration of COVID-19 a public health emergency on 30 January 2020. It will analyze the available evidence for each of the hypotheses about the origin of COVID-19 and compare its early spread and outbreak control with previous outbreaks to identify strategies. which can help prevent future pandemic prevention.
“There is a lot of interest in understanding how COVID-19 emerged and spread, but there is a deeper reason for the work of this task force,” said Dr. Sachs, The Lancet COVID-19 Chairman of the Commission, said. “If we can understand why this pandemic started, we can design solutions to prevent the next one.”
More information on The Lancet COVID-19 Commission and this task force can be found at covid19commission.org/origins-of-the-pandemic.