The Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness
Learning from our recent past and preparing, now, for what is to come
The 20th century witnessed three separate influenza pandemics, the most significant of which was in 1918, and the crossover of HIV to humans—a burden still felt today. With the emergence of SARS in 2002, a new H1N1 virus in 2009, a highly deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, and the emergence in 2019 of SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus that has swept the globe, the 21st century is looking to be anything but quiet. Worst of all, in none of the cases was the world prepared.
Despite our advances in medicine and research over the last century, we have no “seismograph” to precisely predict the emergence of a new virus or pandemic. Although we can’t see into the future, we can learn from the past and prepare now for what is to come. This is the vision of the new Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness at Rutgers University.
Before Rutgers emerged at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, infectious and inflammatory disease research was already a significant strength at the university. Supported by more than $40 million in annual National Institutes of Health funding, the Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases (i3D) has one of the strongest groups of research scientists in the country investigating infectious diseases and inflammation. As a center within i3D, the program can draw on internationally recognized expertise at Rutgers to address diagnostics, new vaccines, and novel treatments to control viral replication and harmful inflammation, a core contributor to the lung injury and dysfunction associated with COVID-19.
The new center will develop a rapid response preparedness capability that can deal with a broad range of future emerging and re-emerging pathogens that reach our shores. Primed by Rutgers’ experience addressing COVID-19, this response will start with the development of rapid molecular and antibody-based diagnostics. Then, critical cohort and household studies will be conducted to understand the new or re-emerging disease. These studies can be done in New Jersey and internationally. Using existing collaborations at Rutgers and elsewhere and leveraging agreements with industry, the center will rapidly employ testing services and animal models to screen for new drugs and improve diagnostics.
A major focus of the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness involves fundamental research into understanding how a new pathogen interacts with the host immune system for the purpose of developing more effective treatments and vaccines. Working across disciplines at Rutgers, the center is developing models for observational and epidemiological studies to help us better understand the natural history and transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The center will also provide animal and clinical trial resources to develop novel vaccines and therapeutics that will help lead our country and the world to recovery from this pandemic.
With additional investment, Rutgers hopes to expand and further accelerate the center’s impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to testing, treatment, and prevention, and address related social, behavioral, and economic issues. Significant investment in infrastructure upgrades; enhanced biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) labs and other core facilities; and recruitment of premier faculty with BSL-3 training and expertise in viral pathogenesis and inflammation will increase the center’s capacity to end the COVID-19 epidemic and prepare for the next one.
Director of the Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Disease (i3D)
Gause joined the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, as a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 1989. In 2004, he joined the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now Rutgers University) as the senior associate dean for research, director of the Center for Immunity and Inflammation, and university professor of medicine at New Jersey Medical School. His research focuses on type 2 immunity, a major arm of the immune system contributing to protection during infectious and inflammatory diseases but also capable of mediating harmful responses, including allergy and fibrosis. He is considered a world leader in this area and has published in prestigious journals, including Science, Nature Medicine, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Nature Reviews Immunology, and Nature Immunology.
Director, Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness
Alland is recognized for his pioneering work on the epidemiology, diagnosis, and evolution of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. His seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine helped guide interventions for controlling the U.S. tuberculosis epidemic of the 1990s. He developed a series of breakthrough diagnostics, culminating in the first on-demand, point-of-care test for TB and rifampin-resistance. Approved by the World Health Organization, the test has simplified TB detection, increased its diagnosis, increased rifampin-resistance notification rates, and resulted in more rapid treatment. His new point-of-care test for resistance to isoniazid, fluoroquinolones, and injectable antitubercular drugs will have a similar impact, permitting rapid and effective treatment for multidrug-resistant TB. He has contributed to major advancements in our understanding of TB drug tolerance and resistance.