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Pardis Christine Sabeti, Professor at the Center for Systems Biology & Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and recipient of the 2017 Richard Lounsbery Award, presented the 2018 Richard Lounsbery Award Lecture, entitled “Genomic Surveillance and Response System for Infectious Disease Outbreaks,” on Wednesday, November 7 at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

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"Long before Ebola erupted into a full-blown outbreak, it spread undetected, gaining momentum with each new patient, until it was too late. The consequences were devastating—and the public health community swore it would never again allow a virus to go unnoticed and unchecked for so long. Yet the next pandemic—Zika—was already circulating under the radar.

Oversights like this occur surprisingly often even in the best U.S. hospitals, where most infectious diseases are not properly diagnosed or tracked until it is too late. Our stunning inability to detect and stop potential outbreaks stems from the fact that current infectious disease diagnostics and surveillance practices are based on outdated tools and approaches—and that newer ones have not yet been unified into coherent systems. As a result, health workers on the ground—nurses, doctors and public health agencies—don’t have the tools and information they need, when they need them most. To defeat outbreaks and save lives, the world needs diagnostic tools and integrated information systems that can detect infectious threats and track their spread.

We must (1) Detect pathogens by inventing the next generation of diagnostics to detect any pathogen, anywhere in the world.  (2) Connect clinics by building an integrated surveillance network to track pathogens as they spread and discover outbreaks as they emerge. (3) Engage patients and link them to the network to improve their health and protect their communities. (4) Empower healthcare workers and everyone on the frontlines by training them to harness the next generation of diagnostic and surveillance tools. And finally (5) Overcome pathogens with new line treatments and vaccines using rapidly programmable platforms like CRIPSR-Cas." (Excerpt from the National Academy of Sciences' page on the lecture)


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