In 2007, Dr. Nathan Wolfe created a non-profit Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, now referred to simply as Global Viral, to figure out how to stop diseases before they become pandemic. In 2009, the Skoll Foundation decided it could get behind the Stanford/Harvard alum's idea, and granted him $5.5 million toward the total seed money needed Dr. Wolfe to get where he wanted to go — namely, South East Asia and Africa. Once Google and Wellcome Trust wrote a few checks, Global Viral, Wolfe, and his research were up and running in both Asia and Africa, with home offices based in San Francisco.
You're probably aware of Dr. Wolfe's work even if you've never heard his name before. After all, he has managed to scare the bejeesus out of us with his consulting work on the film Contagion. Dr. Wolfe now spends his time hunting, tracking, and some even say stalking viruses. He studies everything possible about them to find a way to create early detection systems before a Contagion-like outbreak occurs.
His philosophy is often based in the question "What if we could have stopped HIV before it spread beyond its rural birthplace in Equatorial Africa?" As we are all aware now, the HIV virus infected chimpanzees before humans, and Wolfe and Global Viral do their research in diseases in the "human-animal interface." Wolfe wants the early detection of viruses to go viral… As it were.
According to Wolfe, one of the issues is that it just takes too long for ministries of health to compile virus information and make it public. Wolfe wants this information to get out there faster. Of course, this isn't the major issue.
No, the major issue, as mentioned earlier, is the "human-animal interface." Meaning, as far as I can tell, that people in Africa and Southeast Asia going deeper into the jungles and forests for animal protein, and those animals can harbor viruses that can be passed to humans through butchering and consumption. People then contract the virus and spread it. Wolfe and Global Viral's mission is to stop this viral cycle from happening. His question is, how do you tell the family whose only protein source is those animals not to feed their families?
Good thing Dr. Wolfe has Stanford/Harvard-educated brain, because he's gonna need it. That and a bigger bank account. Let's all hope those grants keep on coming from Skoll.
Related: Sally Osberg