Friday, March 19, 2021

EcoHealth Alliance

 September 21, 2010
Wildlife Trust Rebrands as EcoHealth Alliance
Wildlife Trust is a nonprofit organization that began in 1971 with a focus on wildlife conservation, but over the past 20 years, the organization has expanded its focus to include conservation medicine based on research about the relationships between ecosystems and animal and human health around the world.
Throughout the past two years, the organization’s board of directors, staff and alliance members have been working on rebranding Wildlife Trust, and today, the new brand was introduced officially via a press release.

Earlier this summer the NIH told EcoHealth its grant could be restored if the organization met a number of prerequisites, including securing access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for U.S. investigators, and a virus sample from Wuhan — conditions the organization is unlikely to be able to meet.

The suggestion that EcoHealth’s work no longer fit NIH priorities appears to be at a minimum ironic, given that at the time its award was canceled, the group was in an evaluation process for the grant announced Thursday. Research teams and institutes that wanted to be considered for part of a new network — called the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases or CREID — had to apply in the spring of 2019.

EcoHealth was chosen as one of 11 institutions or research teams to be funded for work to determine how and where viruses and other new pathogens emerge from nature to begin infecting people. EcoHealth’s portion of the five-year, $82 million award will focus on Southeast Asia and the emergence of coronaviruses; filoviruses, the family responsible for Ebola; and paramyxoviruses, a family of viruses that includes measles and mumps.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, said the new network will help the world prepare for future Covid-19 like events.

“The CREID network will enable early warnings of emerging diseases wherever they occur, which will be critical to rapid responses,” Fauci said in a statement.

Peter Daszak is a British zoologist and an expert on disease ecology, in particular on zoonosis. He is currently president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit non-governmental organization that supports various programs on global health and pandemic prevention with headquarters in New York City. He is a researcher, consultant, and public expert in the cause and spread of zoonotic disease outbreaks like that of COVID-19, Ebola, Nipah virus, and other zoonoses.

Daszak earned a B.Sc. in Zoology in 1987 at University College of North Wales (UCNW), and a Ph.D. in parasitic infectious diseases in 1994 at University of East London

Daszak worked at the School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, in Surrey, England in the 1990s. In the late 1990s Daszak moved to the United States and was affiliated with the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia and the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia. Later he became executive director at a collaborative think-tank in New York City, the Consortium for Conservation Medicine. He holds adjunct positions at several universities in the U.S. and the U.K., including the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.[2]

He was one of the early adopters of conservation medicine.[3] The Society for Conservation Biology symposium in 2000, had focused on the "complex problem of emerging diseases".[3] He said in 2001 that there were "almost no examples of emerging wildlife diseases not driven by human environmental change...[a]nd few human emerging diseases don't include some domestic animal or wildlife component." His research has focused on investigating and predicting the impacts of new diseases on wildlife, livestock, and human populations, and he has been involved in research studies on epidemics such as the Nipah virus infection, the Hendra virus, SARS-1, Avian influenza, and the West Nile virus.

Daszak has served on committees of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Health Organization (WHO), National Academy of Sciences, and United States Department of the Interior. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and Chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)'s Forum on Microbial Threats and sits on the supervisory board of the One Health Commission Council of Advisors.

Daszak is the president of the New York-headquartered NGO, EcoHealth Alliance, known for its research on global emergent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, Ebola virus, and COVID-19.

In 2021, Daszak was part of the team of scientists who were tasked by the WHO with finding out from where the SARS-Cov-2 virus originated.

As of 2020 he has authored or contributed to over 300 scientific papers and been designated a Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science. In addition to citations in academic publications, his work has been covered in leading English-language newspapers, television and radio broadcasts, documentary films, and podcasts

COVID-19 pandemic
On February 9, 2020, Newt Gingrich invited Daszak as a special guest along with Anthony Fauci on Newt's World to discuss the coronavirus.[17]

In his February 27, 2020 New York Times article, titled "We Knew Disease X Was Coming", Daszak said R&D Blueprint group of experts to which he belonged, had in February 2018 warned the WHO of the "next pandemic, which would be caused by an unknown, novel pathogen that hadn't yet entered the human population." The Blueprint group coined this hypothetical pathogen "Disease X" and was included it on a list of eight diseases which they recommended should be given highest priority in regard to research and development efforts, such as finding better diagnostic methods and developing vaccines.[18] He said, "As the world stands today on the edge of the pandemic precipice, it's worth taking a moment to consider whether Covid-19 is the disease our group was warning about."[8]

On March 20, 2020 Daszak was featured in a PBS Newshour special podcast "Understanding the Coronavirus".[19]

In April and May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Daszak was interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR),[20] CNN,[21] NBC News,[22] CBS News,[23] and other outlets.

Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance were the only U.S. organization researching coronavirus spread and transmission in China[24] until the project's funding was "abruptly terminated" by the National Institutes of Health in a move that was widely reported to be politically motivated.[23][25] A May 8, 2020 article in the journal Science, said that the unusual April 24 decision to cut EcoHealth's funding, occurred shortly after "President Donald Trump alleged—without providing evidence—that the pandemic virus had escaped from a Chinese laboratory supported by the NIH grant, and vowed to end the funding."[26]

The move has been roundly criticized, including by a group of 77 Nobel laureates who wrote NIH Director Francis Collins that they "are gravely concerned"[27] by the decision and called the funding cut "counterintuitive, given the urgent need to better understand the virus that causes COVID-19 and identify drugs that will save lives."[28]

Daszak was part a segment of the May 11, 2020 broadcast of 60 Minutes.[29]

Daszak was interviewed for a June 2020 Scientific American article on "China's bat woman" Shi Zhengli, a principal investigator at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He praised her and defended her staunchly in the article, which notes that Shi and he are "long-term collaborators". Daszak said: "Shi leads a world-class lab of the highest standards... It’s crystal clear that bats, once again, are the natural reservoir."[30]

Daszak was named by the World Health Organization as the sole U.S.-based representative on a team sent to investigate origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,[31] a team that also includes Marion Koopmans, Hung Nguyen, and Fabian Leendertz.[31]

Awards and honors
In 2000 Daszak received the CSIRO medal for work on amphibian disease.[citation needed]

In October 2018, Daszak was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM),[32] which the New York Times has been called the "most esteemed and authoritative adviser on issues of health and medicine" whose "reports can transform medical thinking around the world."[33]

Ecohealth Alliance is partnered with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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