Policy Update

USAID pandemic identification program is latest budget-cut casualty

A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program called 'Predict', which was researching animal viruses that evolve into human pandemics, is quietly being shut down.

The program, established in the aftermath of the H5N1 bird flu, has cost about US$207 million since 2005.  Experts whose organizations received funding from Predict called the program's shut-down a major loss, describing Predict's work as a crucial approach to identify and proactively address pandemics, rather than waiting for their emergence and scrambling to respond. They say ending this program increases global vulnerability to diseases such as Ebola or MERS, and as-yet-undiscovered zoonotic viruses that can originate from unexpected places in the animal world and devestate human populations.

Predict had collected 14,000 biological samples over its ten years active, and identified 1,000 new viruses, including a hitherto unseen strain of Ebola. The initiative had also trained approximately 5,000 people in Asian and African states, and founded or supported 60 laboratories for medcial research in low-income nations.

News article - The New York Times