The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska, along with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) were the hosts of a one day symposium held on Wednesday, March 11th, at the Embassy Suites in Omaha, bringing together experts in Ebola to share their expertise. Experts included scientists from UNMC, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others from across the science industry and academia.
The symposium “brought together infectious disease scientists from across the nation to exchange ideas with physicians who have treated Ebola patients,” said Ken Bayles, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for basic science research at UNMC.
“Specifically, the focus was Ebola genomics and the study of the next generation of DNA sequencing technologies used to study the disease,” continued Dr. Bayles. “This meeting was significant because not only did it bring together outstanding basic scientists, but it also brought in physicians who are among the world leaders in treating this disease.”
Genomics refers to the study of genomes, or the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism. The field has grown quickly, as state-of-the-art DNA sequencers produce relatively rapid results, providing near endless areas for scientists to study.
“UNMC has demonstrated strengths in cutting edge sequencing technologies and we hope to make clear that the power of this technology is not limited to the study of Ebola—it can be applied to other infectious diseases. The dynamic interactions between scientists, clinicians, and DoD agency representatives at very technical levels of discussions is to a very large degree, the foundation on which NSRI was formed. That foundation is to find answers to the unknowns that have potential impacts to the public and our national security.” said Lt Gen Bob Hinson, NSRI Executive Director.
This was the first in-person meeting for two experts in the country who treated Ebola patients. Dr. Angela Hewlett of UNMC and Dr. Colleen Kraft of Emory University had worked closely together, remotely, while treating Ebola patients. The NSRI-hosted Technical Interchange meeting presented their first opportunity to meet each other, in-person. The two presented a Panel Discussion together, with Dr. Phil Smith on “Clinical aspects of Ebola virus disease” and shared stories of treating their patients.
The symposium technical interchange meeting format brings together experts across various disciplines to discuss a specific topic. It also provides an opportunity for faculty experts to educate potential funding agencies, such as the Department of Defense, on their capabilities while learning of the agencies’ research needs.
Founded in 2012, the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska is the only University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) in the country dedicated to delivering solutions for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and across other federal agencies. NSRI provides research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other governmental agencies in multiple mission-critical competency areas — including development of medical countermeasures to WMD; nuclear detection and forensics; consequence management; chemical and biological weapons detection; and space, cyber, and telecom law. Learn more at nsri.nebraska.edu