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COVID-19 has made clear the need for proactive, rather than reactive, approaches to preventing pandemics. (Getty)

Initiatives to Intercept Pandemics Through Genomics

BIOSCAN, Earth BioGenome Project, and Global Virome Project Propose Pandemic Interception System

Three major initiatives in biodiversity genomics — BIOSCAN, Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), and Global Virome Project (GVP) — have joined forces to deliver a “pandemic interception system” based upon comprehensive knowledge of pathogens and their hosts, explains a recent commentary in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“COVID-19 has made it perfectly clear that we need anticipatory rather than reactive systems to protect humanity from pandemics,” said Paul Hebert, chair of the International Barcode of Life Consortium that leads BIOSCAN and director of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph. “In fact, this survey of pathogenic agents needs to extend across all domains of life so that we can protect planetary biodiversity.”

Such a system could hugely advance understanding of the natural world, the authors write.

“COVID-19 and other diseases such as Ebola, MERS and SARS have shown the devastating health effects of zoonotic viruses on humanity,” said Jonna Mazet of GVP’s board of directors and executive director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis. “Other species experience similar devastating epidemics and are both sources of and sensitive to shared pathogens.” 

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