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Will genomics help prevent the next pandemic? – new PLoS article collection

We’re delighted to announce the publication of “Genomics of Emerging Infectious Disease”, a collection of essays, perspectives, and reviews that address the question – will genomics help prevent the next pandemic?

This collection is particularly timely, as pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza (commonly referred to as swine flu) spreads around the globe and people want to know if this flu poses more of a threat than other seasonal flu strains, how fast it’s spreading (and where), and what can be done to contain it. The increasing speed at which complete genome sequences and other genome-scale data can be generated provides tremendous opportunities to identify the molecular changes in such disease agents that will enable us to track their spread and evolution through time and to generate the vaccines and drugs necessary to combat them.

The collection consists of 14 articles—all published today—from six different PLoS journals (PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine, PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and PLoS Pathogens), reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the topic. An Audio Interview with Jonathan Eisen, the collection Editor and PLoS Biology’s Academic Editor-in-Chief, Siv Andersson, an author on one of the PLoS Computational Biology papers, and Raj Gupta, a Google.org contributor, also accompanies the articles.

Jonathan Eisen is also an author of the collection editorial (in PLoS Biology), which briefly summarizes the collection’s contents and rationale. The articles focus on specific pathogens from viruses to bacteria to helminths, but also touch on the implication of genomics for drug and vaccine discovery and for understanding the biology of both the agents of these diseases and their vectors. Others discuss the broader implications of genomics research in this area, such as what it means for researchers in developing countries or for our biosecurity.

The collection is a collaborative effort that combines financial support from Google.org with the editorial independence and rigor of PLoS and the expert opinion of leading researchers from several different disciplines. You can read more about Google.org’s involvement in a blog post from Frank Rijsberman. In one of the articles (from PLoS Biology), Gupta et al. discuss Google.org’s vision as a funding agency for how the international community might unite to best take advantage of the new technology for combating infectious disease. The challenges are large and each article ends with a section summarizing what these are and how they might be overcome.

Many scientific journals produce special issues on a topic of interest for their audiences. However, our open-access model of publishing makes it possible to have such a large multidisciplinary cross-journal collection simultaneously available online for unrestricted reuse, regardless of venue. This collection will add to other “open science” activities that have helped provide insights into infectious disease more quickly than would have been thought feasible only a few years ago. The faster, cheaper, and more openly we can distribute the discoveries of science, the better for scientific progress and public health. As the collection emphasizes, managing the threat of novel, reemerging, and longstanding infectious diseases is challenging enough even without barriers to scientific research. We encourage you to make the most of this collection by sharing, rating, and annotating the articles using our online commenting tools. Better yet, join the discussion by providing your own vision to prevent the emergence and spread of the next rogue pathogen.

Media and other enquiries to Liz Allen, Director of Marketing, Tel (001) 415 624 1218, lallen@plos.org

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