114: Global Public Health with George F. Gao

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By American Society for Microbiology and Julie Wolf. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

George F. Gao discusses how China CDC promotes global public health during outbreaks SARS and Ebola. He also talks about running a structural biology lab, the importance of both basic and translational research, and the most important discovery of the 20th century.

Julie’s Biggest Takeaways:

China CDC was founded in 2001. Its experience with the SARS outbreak informed its response to the western Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016, having learned that viruses don’t care about national borders and can quickly become an international problem. Responding to any major outbreak serves both altruistic and selfish motives, since quelling the outbreak decreases the chance that the disease will continue to circulate, potentially reaching your country.

Basic research is fundamental for many translational applications to improve human health. By measuring the mutation rate, for example, of a circulating virus, scientists can determine if previous isolates can be used to generate vaccines. The basic research that led to new nucleic acid sequencing techniques has many important applications!

When asking other scientists what the most important discovery of the 20th century is, many biomedical scientists name the discovery of the double helix. George points out that bird migration patterns have influenced our understanding of avian diseases like the flu. This discovery led scientists to understand more about the annual transmission patterns of flu, highlighting the importance of interdisciplinary research.

George has a foot in both basic and translational sciences and is an ardent supporter of both. The difficulty is in identifying basic research that has potential for application and providing opportunities to basic researchers to create companies and products based on their research. Another hurdles is collaborating and coordinating to ensure people talk to each other

George lists the 4 Cs required to promote science, public health and societal development:

  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Competition

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