One Health Supporter Stephen S. Morse Named Director of USAID Early Warning Project

Initiative will monitor diseases that move between animals and people to prevent next pandemic

November 9, 2009 -- A new project -- PREDICT -- has been created with up to $75 million in funds over five years from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats Program to develop a global warning system for newly emerging diseases and to anticipate and prevent emerging infectious diseases that move between animals and people in order to prevent the next global pandemic. Stephen S. Morse, Ph.D., professor of clinical Epidemiology and former director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, was named director of the PREDICT program.

PREDICT is being funded by USAID to help prepare the world for infectious diseases like H1N1 flu, avian flu, SARS and Ebola. The program is a major component of USAID’s overall Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program, which builds on the successes of USAID’s long-standing efforts in developing global health capacity and disease surveillance, training, and outbreak response, particularly those addressing avian and pandemic influenza.

The PREDICT program that Dr. Morse will direct includes a consortium of organizations led by the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of California Davis. The other organizations in the PREDICT consortium include the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust, Global Viral Forecasting, Inc., and the Smithsonian Institution. The concept of ‘One Health’ -- that human, animal, and environmental health are inextricably linked and should be considered holistically -- is a core principle of the PREDICT effort.

The current H1N1 influenza pandemic, which is thought to have originated in swine, is a reminder that controlling pandemics and other emerging infections requires understanding of their origins and ecology in nature. “Historically, pandemics occurred perhaps every 30 to 40 years,” noted Dr. Morse. “But in our modern world, the chances of novel diseases or even a new pandemic emerging are greater than ever because of how we live and the extent to which we travel. Our human settlements and roadways push deeper into forests and wild areas where we now raise livestock and poultry; and we transport ourselves, our animals, and our food farther and faster around the globe.”

“Predicting where new diseases may emerge from wild animals and detecting viruses and other pathogens before they spread among people give us the best chance to prevent new pandemics,” said scientist Jonna Mazet, who is leading the PREDICT project at UC Davis and the director of UC Davis’ new One Health Institute in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

The PREDICT team will be active in global hotspots where important wildlife host species have significant interaction with domestic animals and high-density human populations. They include South America's Amazon Basin, Africa’s Congo Basin and neighboring Rift Valley, South Asia's Gangetic Plain, and Southeast Asia. Those conditions enable the spread of microbes, especially viruses and bacteria, from animals to humans.

Among the 1,461 pathogens recognized to cause diseases in humans, at least 60 percent are of animal origin. Notable outbreaks of these animal-to-human diseases, or zoonoses, include:

  • The 1918 influenza pandemic, which was probably caused by a virus that jumped from birds, killed over 50 million people globally;
  • The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which moved from chimpanzees to people, and now infects more than 33 million individuals;
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2003 from southern China "wet markets" where live wild animals are sold for food; and
  • The recent outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1, or "bird flu," as well as the current H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Dr. Stephen S. Morse previously served as program manager for Biodefense at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense, where he co-directed the Pathogen Countermeasures program, and in the laboratory as a professor in virology at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Morse originated the term and concept of emerging viruses/infections; and currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Institute of Medicine's Forum on Microbial Threats, and served on the original National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Emerging Microbial Threats to Health (and chaired its Task Force on Viruses). He was the founding chair of ProMED (the nonprofit international Program to Monitor Emerging Diseases) and an originator of ProMED-mail, an international network inaugurated by ProMED in 1994 for outbreak reporting and disease monitoring using the Internet. Most recently, he has been working on predictive models for influenza and the 1918 pandemic. His book, Emerging Viruses (Oxford University Press) was selected by "American Scientist" for its list of "100 Top Science Books of the 20th Century.

About the Mailman School of Public Health
The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University’s history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master’s and doctoral degrees, and the School’s 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness. More information:

About the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
As a top veterinary school internationally, and the leading one in preventive medicine and wildlife health, UC Davis has an extensive research and training track record in the fields of epidemiology, surveillance, zoonotic diseases, comparative medicine, diagnostics, wildlife pathogens and conservation, food safety, disease prevention, and outbreak response. The school has trained more than 800 international veterinarians from 75 countries, including hotspots in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Its One Health Institute and Wildlife Health Center manage One Health programs for people and animals ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Africa's Congo Basin and Rift Valley. More information:

USAID is the lead U.S. Government Agency providing foreign development and humanitarian assistance. The agency's Global Development Alliance (GDA) links U.S. foreign assistance with the resources, expertise and creativity of the private sector as well as nongovernmental organizations. Since its launch in 2001, the Global Development Alliance has changed the way many U.S. international development projects are financed and implemented. USAID has cultivated more than 900 public-private alliances with over 1,700 individual partners to benefit development programming. More information: