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Awarded Global Innovation Challenge Grants

The Havey Institute for Global Health is pleased to offer support to affiliated Northwestern faculty for research in global health. The Global Innovation Challenge mechanism is intended to encourage exploratory and cutting edge research by providing support for early and conceptual stages of project development geared towards addressing healthcare needs worldwide.

 SARS-CoV-2 Transmission & Policy: Using active surveillance with bench science to inform what works, what doesn't, and what's promising?
South America (Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia), Sub-Saharan Africa (Tanzania, Mali, Nigeria), and South Asia (India), Fall 2022

The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate into new variants, which pose a global threat to public health. Because new variants can quickly shift the course of the pandemic, public health leaders often rely on incomplete, delayed data when tasked with critical policy decisions. This project will create an enhanced active surveillance system for researchers around the world to consult. Our interdisciplinary team of experts across surveillance systems, epidemiology, informatics, evaluation methods, engineering, infectious disease, genomics, molecular biology, and econometrics will use the enhanced system to provide immediate answers to key policy questions as new developments in the SARS-CoV-2 virus alter the trajectory of the pandemic. Our long-term goal is to inform effective public health policy on the resolution of this and future public health crises.

Our objective in this proposal is to create and disseminate interdisciplinary research on effective policy at the population level through global partnerships. We will accomplish this objective in two specific aims: (1) To identify shifts and the evolution of the pandemic, at any geographical level and timeframe, using disease modeling, transmission, and expansion metrics of SARS-CoV-2 and its VOI/VOCs. (2) To conduct policy relevant research on SARS-CoV-2 in response to new developments in the pandemic, by using difference-in-differences and dynamic panel estimators. These advanced statistical methods allow us to test policy and effectiveness of vaccinations, quarantines, and various mitigation strategies such as masking, remote work, and learning. We will also conduct a simulation study to quantify the potential benefits of our systematic, ongoing disease models as compared to traditional surveillance metrics. Our system of surveillance, modeling, and projections will have a high impact at the global level. To disseminate our work, we have secured partnerships with the media, Northwestern Alumnae, the United Nations, USAID, USAID missions and countries globally, WHO, CDC, and our global network of universities.

Quick Facts

Principal Investigator: Alexander Lundberg, MS, PhD

Co-Investigator: Lori Ann Post, PhD

Partnered Institutions: All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India; Center for Pathogen Genomics and Microbial Evolution (CPGME)

 SARS-CoV-2 surveillance and capacity building in Peru and Bolivia
Peru and Bolivia, Fall 2022

Since its emergence in 2019, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, has infected hundreds of millions of people in a global pandemic. To define and monitor the effects of variants of concerns (VOCs), researchers and public health experts around the globe rely on genomic surveillance. A lack of timely genomic surveillance information has resulted in an unclear picture of the origin, severity, and transmissibility of VOCs among different global populations. The need for improved genomic surveillance is most acute in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which often lack the resources and expertise to track the emergence and spread of clinically relevant SARSCoV-2 variants. Most countries in South America are notably underrepresented in global genomic surveillance efforts, with just 2.3% of all SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in the GISAID global database originating from the continent. Improving genomic surveillance capacity in LMICs is critical to the early detection of and response to emerging variants.

Here, we propose to establish and enrich strategic foundational partnerships in three cities in South America (Lima and Iquitos in Peru and Santa Cruz in Bolivia) to fill critical gaps in global SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance infrastructure and build local capacity for pathogen genomics. This will be accomplished in 4 stages: (i) establishment of collaborative ties and an administrative framework across partner institutions; (ii) remote provision of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance capacity through whole-genome sequencing at Northwestern University as well as in Lima, Peru for immediate dissemination and reporting; (iii) local establishment of SOPs for clinical data collection and specimen biobanking; and (iv) provision of consultation and training towards capacity building with the goal of joint funding. The proposed project will establish a network of collaborations in undersurveillanced countries and regions in South America to contribute to local and global COVID-19 research and build capacity for local genomic surveillance.

Quick Facts

Principal Investigator: Egon Ozer, MD, PhD

Co-Investigators: Judd F. Hultquist, PhD & Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo, PhD

Partnered Institutions: Centro de Investigaciones Tecnológicas Biomédicas y Medioambientales (CITBM) at the National University of San Marcos in Peru, Iquitos that is dedicated to clinical scientific research, La Asociación Civil Selva Amazónica (ACSA, the Amazon Forest Civil Association), and Human Health Sciences as the Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno (UAGRM)

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