The Expert: Nathan Wolfe, Ph.D. ||| Epidemiologist, NG Emerging Explorer
The project: Wolfe is spearheading the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI), the world’s first early warning system for disease. Catch an outbreak early, he says, and you’ll head off the next pandemic.
“Most pandemics have animal origins. For the GVFI, we enroll and study ‘sentinels’—people who work at animal markets or industrial animal farms. If they become ill, we treat them and look at the things they’re infected with. If we uncover something that’s spreading, we can trigger the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. We want to catch diseases where they originate. Imagine if we had discovered HIV in the ’50s or ’60s. Imagine the lead time we would have had to stop its spread and understand its biology. The big hope for us is that in 30 or 40 years, we’ll be able to capture these outbreaks early on and save lives.”