Institute provides its virus expertise and core technologies including human Organ Chips, genome engineering, and diagnostics capabilities to participate in Network’s collaborative approach to virus detection and therapy
By Benjamin Boettner
(BOSTON) — Today, the Global Virus Network (GVN), a conglomerate of 52 “Centers of Excellence” and 9 Affiliates in 32 countries, which catalyzes collaborative research into diseases caused by every class of virus in humans and animals, announced the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University as a new Center of Excellence. The Institute is one of six new Institutes to join the GVN as Centers of Excellence or Affiliates.
The announcement was made by the GVN’s President Christian Bréchot, M.D., Ph.D., and Robert Gallo, M.D., Co-Founder and Chairman of the International Scientific Leadership Board of the GVN. “The GVN continues to serve as a catalyst uniquely connecting top virus research institutions from around the world to build collaborative, effective alliances and eradicate viral threats. In fact, these six Centers and Affiliates perfectly illustrate this concept, combining Centers with highly complementary skills, from all over the world,” said Bréchot, who is also Professor at the University of South Florida.
“We offer the GVN a truly unique skill set in bioengineering and technology innovation that will nicely complement the more classic virology focus of most other members of the network, as well as numerous powerful enabling technologies that GVN members should find extremely useful,” said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. “We look forward to the GVN helping us to identify relevant funding opportunities and sources of clinical samples, and to team with us to build stronger consortia around specific problems, and if possible, to provide support for fellows and trainees.”
Ingber is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School, Senior Associate in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The Wyss Institute leverages recent insights into how nature builds, controls and manufactures to develop new engineering innovations – a new field of research the Institute referred to as Biologically Inspired Engineering. By emulating biological principles of self-assembly, organization and regulation, the Institute is developing disruptive technology solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics and manufacturing, which are translated into commercial products and therapies through formation of new startups and corporate alliances.
The Institute’s unique Organ-on-a-Chip (Organ Chip) technology enables modeling of human tissues with in vivo-like architectures and physiologies to study viral infection, propagation, evolution, patient-to-patient transmission, and host responses in vitro. Wyss Institute researchers are leveraging human Organ Chips and a variety of its other core technologies in genome engineering, synthetic biology, and immunomaterials in a highly multi-disciplinary approach to create rapid, sensitive, and highly specific diagnostics for detection of viruses, broad spectrum anti-virus vaccines, new antiviral therapeutics, novel drug- and gene-delivering viral vectors, and culture-free viral infectivity assays.
“Since HIV/AIDS first appeared, I strongly have believed mankind will best be served if the world’s leading virologists are organized and better equipped to deal with existing and new viral threats,” said Gallo. “These diverse new members of the GVN add depth of expertise and global reach to our network. They will help us better combat viral threats and train the next generation of virologists.” Gallo is also The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.
Along with the Wyss Institute, the Manipal Institute of Virology, India; The Tropical Medicine Institute “Alexander von Humboldt” of the Universidad Cayetano Heredia, Peru; and the Korea National Institute’s of Health’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research join the GVN as new Centers of Excellence, and the Research Institute of Virology Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Antiviral Pharmacology Laboratory and Clinical Trials Research Center Virology Program at the University of Zimbabwe are joining as new Affiliates.