The COVID-19 pandemic starkly illustrates the threat posed to humanity by newly emerging and reemerging infectious agents. In the three years since the first case of COVID-19 was identified, there have been 760,360,956 confirmed cases and 6,873,477 confirmed deaths, with estimates of the true case and death numbers being significantly higher. COVID-19 also negatively impacted the ongoing fight against HIV, Mycobacteria tuberculosis (Mtb), and malaria, with staggering drops worldwide in the number of people being tested and receiving treatment for drug-resistant Mtb, as well as significant decreases in the number of people obtaining HIV testing, preventative services, and antiretroviral treatment. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, the WHO estimates that at least 30 new diseases have emerged in the last 20 years and now together threaten the health of hundreds of millions of people, and for many of these diseases, there is no treatment, cure, or vaccine.
To address this growing global infectious disease problem, further elucidation of host-pathogen interactions is absolutely needed to better design therapeutics and vaccines to prevent morbidity and mortality from existing and newly emerging infectious agents. Animal models of human infectious diseases are critical for understanding disease pathogenesis, vaccine modalities, and therapeutic interventions in vivo. However, there is an absolute requirement for animal models that parallel and share developmental, physiological, and evolutionary relationships with humans and are susceptible to the same or closely related infectious agents with similar, if not identical, disease sequelae. As such, nonhuman primates (NHPs) represent ideal and powerful experimental models to study infectious diseases afflicting humanity.
Addressing these challenges is the goal of the scientists within the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology (DPI) at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), which is home to a team of outstanding virologists, immunologists, and pathologists that are imbued with a ‘team science’ ethic and a commitment to NHP models of human diseases. The fundamental theme of the DPI is that progress in these areas of investigation requires a close-knit collaborative environment in which scientists work collectively towards common goals. Furthermore, it is clear that NHP models are an essential element of any truly clinically relevant investigations in these areas.