CEIRS 12th Annual Network Meeting Summary

The 12th Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) Annual Network Meeting was hosted by Johns Hopkins CEIRS from June 23-26, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. Over the course of the meeting, researchers presented new and ongoing influenza research and surveillance efforts, and Center Principal Investigators shared updates on ongoing projects, highlighting key accomplishments and progress. Meeting participants engaged in panel discussions, poster sessions, and open networking activities, fostering cross-Center collaboration and open discussion. 

The Annual Network Meeting encompassed a broad selection of topics, including oral presentations and posters on host response, immunity, transmission, vaccines, tools and technology, and virology and evolution. Many presentations aimed to address the recurring theme of key gaps or areas of uncertainty in the dynamics of human influenza infection and transmission, specifically pertaining to prevention and treatment of disease. Several researchers aimed to address the obstacle of seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness, a long-standing challenge in the field. Other presentations focused on the use of phylogenetic analysis and mapping to analyze viral genetic drift of different influenza strains across outbreak seasons and how these changes may affect vaccine development. Recent advancements in pharmaceutical research were also highlighted by a presentation on endonuclease inhibitors, a newer class of antiviral drugs, as a potential target for more effective influenza treatment methods.  

Principal Investigators from each CEIRS Center provided updates on ongoing research projects and future plans. Each Center highlighted its researchers’ accomplishments, encompassing various influenza research and surveillance topics; two keynote presentations were focused on non-influenza topics. Dr. Malik Peiris (St. Jude CEIRS) gave a presentation on zoonotic risks of MERS-CoV, examining various factors affecting zoonotic transmission of coronaviruses in different human and vector populations. Dr. Stephan Bour (CEIRS Data Processing and Coordinating Center) provided in-depth insight into the latest advances in data processing technologies being developed by the CEIRS DPCC, a major step forward for the ability of the CEIRS database to handle the large volume of data submissions from the Centers. 

At this year’s Annual Network Meeting, the Keynote presentation featured This Week in Virology (TWiV), a weekly podcast featuring relevant topics, history, and current events in the field of virology. The podcast was created and is hosted by Vincent Racaniello, a professor of Microbiology & Immunology, and guests are regularly featured on the show. Branch Chief Alan Embry (NIAID) and CEIRS Researchers Florian Krammer (CRIP) and Jennifer Nayak (NYICE) were invited to participate as guests for the special live feature of TWiV. A recording of the interview can be found on TWiV’s website.  

Vaccine development and effectiveness remained a critical component of the 12th Annual Network Meeting. As a significant number of presentations focused on various aspects of vaccine development, research, efficacy, and surveillance, there is a clear, well-established goal of pioneering collaborative research projects aimed toward establishing a path forward for seasonal vaccine improvement. As the influenza virus continues to mutate and establish different population dynamics each year, CEIRS researchers aim to jump one step ahead of the virus to tackle advances in cellular virology and public health needs in the forefront.  

The CEIRS Network will reconvene in 2020 for the CEIRS Annual Surveillance Meeting in Santa Marta, Colombia, and the 13th Annual Network Meeting, to be hosted by St. Jude CEIRS in Memphis, Tennessee.