The Biden administration's US Agency for International Development has launched a project in cooperation with the Washington State University to find up to 12,000 novel viruses in nature, in hopes of preventing the next pandemic.
The $125 million global project was announced earlier this month by WSU, which will lead the the USAID Discovery & Exploration of Emerging Pathogens – Viral Zoonoses, or DEEP VZN project, according to WSU Insider.
According to WSU, the project "will build scientific capacity in partner countries to safely detect and characterize unknown viruses which have the potential to spill over from wildlife and domestic animals to human populations."
"To make sure the world is better prepared for these infectious disease events, which are likely to happen more frequently as wild areas become increasingly fragmented, we need to be ready," said lead principal investigator for USAID DEEP VZN and associate professor with WSU College of Veterinary Medicine's Paul G. Allen School for Global Health Felix Lankester. "We will work to not only detect viruses but also build capacity in other countries, so the United States can collaborate with them in carrying out this important work."
According to the National Pulse, the project follows a similar format as research conducted by by EcoHealth Alliance and its partner the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The project is looking to collect 800,000 samples within the five-year timespan of the project, mostly from wildlife, "then to detect whether viruses from the target families are present in the samples."
"When those are found, the researchers will determine the zoonotic potential of the viruses, or the ability to transfer from animals to humans," wrote WSU.
The project is expected to yield between 8,000 to 12,000 novel viruses, which will then be screened by researchers to see which ones pose the most risk to human and animal health. The university "plans to partner with up to 12 targeted countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to carry out large-scale animal surveillance programs within their own countries, safely, using their own laboratory facilities."
In addition the university will be working with a number of partners including the University of Washington and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, as well as public health nonprofits PATH and FHI 360.