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U part of team charged with improving global response to pandemics

University faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Public Health, Medical School, and other collegiate units will be on the front lines of a global collaboration to fight emerging zoonotic pandemics--diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Through the project, called RESPOND, faculty are joining a multidisciplinary team that will implement a U.S. Agency for International Development cooperative agreement with funding of up to $185 million, $55 million of which will go to the University's Academic Health Center over the next five years.

University faculty will travel to pandemic hot spots--potentially in Southeast Asia, the Amazon Basin, and the Congo Basin--to try to prevent the next pandemic. They will be working with DAI, a company based in Washington, D.C., and Tufts University to improve the ability of countries to recognize and respond to new epidemics in places where relationships between humans, animals, and the environment are unstable.

"The University of Minnesota was sought out because of our range of expertise in zoonotic diseases that crosses disciplines and our focus on the connection between animal and human health," says Frank Cerra, M.D., the University's senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School. "We are one of only a handful of places in the country that has this range of disciplines."

Although the RESPOND team members will be dealing with newly emerging diseases, examples of similar diseases they might encounter include avian influenza, SARS, and the Ebola virus.

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