The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is awarding the UCLA School of Public Health $18.5 million to create the Center for Rapid Influenza Surveillance and Research (CRISAR).

A team of physicians, veterinarians, researchers and biologists has been assembled from across the U.S. to conduct research on influenza viruses with pandemic potential.

Domestic surveillance of wildlife — especially wild birds — and domestic animals will be conducted along the Pacific Flyway of North America in states including Alaska, Washington and California. International surveillance will be conducted in far eastern Russia, Japan, Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia.

Once samples have been collected, CRISAR will analyze influenza genes from thousands of viruses each year, creating a capacity that is at least 10 times greater and far faster than currently exists to fully characterize influenza viruses as they evolve.

“UCLA's School of Public Health has assembled many of our country's leading influenza experts to monitor the path of influenza in the United States and abroad," Dr. Linda Rosenstock, dean of the school, said in a news release. "CRISAR will be instrumental in early detection of the next influenza outbreak, providing a head start in preventing a pandemic.”

CRISAR will utilize the federally and state-funded UCLA High Speed, High Volume Laboratory Network for Infectious Diseases, created to quickly analyze and process large quantities of biological samples. Improving the global capacity to make rapid and critically important decisions to save lives, the lab will enhance animal and human surveillance and permit an up-to-date view of infectious disease outbreaks for effective decision-making and public health interventions.

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In addition to UCLA, members of the CRISAR team include:

·        Los Alamos National Laboratory, which will provide technological support and create testing devices for field surveillance.

·        The University of California, Davis, which will conduct domestic animal surveillance in Alaska, Washington and California. Dr. Walter Boyce, of UC Davis, is co-principal investigator for CRISAR.

·        The University of Alaska, Fairbanks, which will conduct domestic surveillance in Alaska and international surveillance in Russia and Japan.

·        The Wildlife Conservation Society, which will conduct international surveillance in Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia.

The goal of the newly created centers is to provide the federal government with important information to inform public health strategies for controlling and lessening the impact of seasonal influenza as well as a potentially deadly influenza pandemic.