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Peter Daszak

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Peter Daszak
EducationUniversity of East London (Ph.D.) Bangor University (B.Sc.)

Peter Daszak is a British zoologist, consultant and public expert on disease ecology, in particular on zoonosis. He is a president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit non-governmental organization that supports various programs on global health and pandemic prevention.[1] He is also a member of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Columbia University Maillman School of Public Health.[1] Daszak is known for his involvement with investigations into the outbreak which caused the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] He was a member of the WHO team sent to investigate the origins of the virus in China, and has collaborated with prominent virologists and infectious disease ecologists around the world.


Daszak earned a B.Sc. in zoology in 1987, at Bangor University and a Ph.D. in parasitic infectious diseases in 1994 at University of East London.[1]


Daszak worked at the School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, in Surrey, England in the 1990s. In the late 1990s Daszak moved to the United States and was affiliated with the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia and the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia. Later he became executive director at a collaborative think-tank in New York City, the Consortium for Conservation Medicine. He has adjunct positions at two universities in the U.K. and three universities in the U.S., including the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.[1]

He was one of the early adopters of conservation medicine.[3] The Society for Conservation Biology symposium in 2000, had focused on the "complex problem of emerging diseases".[3] He said in 2001 that there were "almost no examples of emerging wildlife diseases not driven by human environmental change...[a]nd few human emerging diseases don't include some domestic animal or wildlife component." His research has focused on investigating and predicting the impacts of new diseases on wildlife, livestock, and human populations, and he has been involved in research studies on epidemics such as the Nipah virus infection, the Hendra virus, SARS-1, Avian influenza, and the West Nile virus.[4]

Starting in 2014, Daszak was project lead of a six year NIH project which focused on the emergence of novel zoonotic coronaviruses (CoV) with a bat origin.[5] Among the aims of the project was to characterize the diversity and distribution of SARSr-CoVs in bats, viruses with a significant risk of spillover, in southern China, based on data from spike protein sequences, infectious clone technology, infection experiments (both in vitro and in vivo), as well as analysis of receptor binding.[6] The six 1-year projects received $3.75 million in funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health agency.[5]

Daszak has served on committees of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Health Organization (WHO), National Academy of Sciences, and United States Department of the Interior.[1] He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and Chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)'s Forum on Microbial Threats and sits on the supervisory board of the One Health Commission Council of Advisors.[7]

As of 2021, Daszak is the president of the New York-headquartered NGO EcoHealth Alliance.[8] His research focuses on global emergent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, Ebola virus, and COVID-19.[1][9][10]

COVID-19 pandemic

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Daszak noted in New York Times that he and other disease ecologists had warned the WHO in 2018 that the next pandemic "would be caused by an unknown, novel pathogen that hadn't yet entered the human population," probably in a region with significant human-animal interaction.[11] The group had named this hypothetical pathogen "Disease X"; it was included it on a list of eight diseases which they recommended should be given highest priority in regard to research and development efforts, such as finding better diagnostic methods and developing vaccines.[12] He said, "As the world stands today on the edge of the pandemic precipice, it's worth taking a moment to consider whether Covid-19 is the disease our group was warning about."[13]

In 2020 Daszak was named by the World Health Organization as the sole U.S.-based representative on a team sent to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,[14] a team that also included Marion Koopmans, Hung Nguyen, and Fabian Leendertz.[14] Daszak had previously collaborated for many years with Shi Zhengli, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and other virologists around the world.[15]

Prior to the pandemic, Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance were the only U.S.-based organization researching coronavirus evolution and transmission in China.[16] The project's funding was "abruptly terminated" by the National Institutes of Health, in a move that was widely reported to be politically motivated.[9][17][18] A May 8, 2020 article in the journal Science stated that the unusual April 24 decision to cut EcoHealth's funding had occurred shortly after "President Donald Trump alleged – without providing evidence – that the pandemic virus had escaped from a Chinese laboratory supported by the NIH grant, and vowed to end the funding."[19]

The move was roundly criticized, including by a group of 77 Nobel laureates, who wrote NIH Director Francis Collins that they "are gravely concerned"[20] by the decision and called the funding cut "counterintuitive, given the urgent need to better understand the virus that causes COVID-19 and identify drugs that will save lives."[21]

On April 1, 2020, following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the USAID granted $2.26 million to the EcoHealth program for a six-month emergency extension;[22][23] UC Davis announced that the extension would support "detection of SARS-CoV-2 cases in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to inform the public health response", as well as investigation of "the animal source or sources of SARS-CoV-2 using data and samples collected over the past 10 years in Asia and Southeast Asia."[23]

Media coverage

As of 2020 Daszak has authored or contributed to over 300 scientific papers and been designated a Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science. In addition to citations in academic publications, his work has been covered in leading English-language newspapers,[13][24] television and radio broadcasts, documentary films,[25] and podcasts.[26]

During times of large virus outbreaks Daszak has been invited to speak as an expert on epidemics involving diseases moving across the species barrier from animals to humans.[7][27][28] At the time of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, Daszak said "Our research shows that new approaches to reducing emerging pandemic threats at the source would be more cost-effective than trying to mobilize a global response after a disease has emerged".[29]

In October 2019, when the federal government "quietly" ended the ten-year old program called PREDICT,[30] operated by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'s emerging threats division,[31] Daszak said that, compared to the $5 billion the U.S. spent fighting Ebola in West Africa, PREDICT—which cost $250 million—was much less expensive. Daszak further stated, "PREDICT was an approach to heading off pandemics, instead of sitting there waiting for them to emerge, and then mobilizing."[31]

Awards and honors

In October 2018, Daszak was elected to the National Academy of Medicine.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Peter Daszak, PhD". Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Archived from the original on May 30, 2021. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Quinn, Jimmy (May 25, 2021). "The Growing Scrutiny of Peter Daszak's Chinese Research Collaboration". National Review.
  3. ^ a b Norris, Scott (January 1, 2001). "A New Voice in ConservationConservation medicine seeks to bring ecologists, veterinarians, and doctors together around a simple unifying concept: health". BioScience. 51 (1): 7–12. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0007:ANVIC]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0006-3568. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  4. ^ "Peter Daszak". TEDMED. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Project no. 2R01AI110964-06: Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence (2019-2021)". NIH RePORTER. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  6. ^ "RePORT ⟩ RePORTER". Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Dr. Peter Daszak". EcoHealth Alliance. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  8. ^ "Wildlife Conservation and Pandemic Prevention - EcoHealth Alliance". EcoHealth Alliance. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Subbaraman, Nidhi (August 21, 2020). "'Heinous!': Coronavirus researcher shut down for Wuhan-lab link slams new funding restrictions". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-02473-4.
  10. ^ "Developing MCMs for Coronaviruses". Rapid Medical Countermeasure Response to Infectious Diseases: Enabling Sustainable Capabilities Through Ongoing Public- and Private-Sector Partnerships: Workshop Summary. National Academy of Sciences. 2016.
  11. ^ Daszak, Peter (February 27, 2020). "Opinion | We Knew Disease X Was Coming. It's Here Now". The New York Times. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  12. ^ 2018 Annual review of diseases prioritized under the Research and Development Blueprint (PDF) (Report). February 2018. p. 449.
  13. ^ a b Daszak, Peter (February 27, 2020). "We knew Disease X was Coming. It's here now. We need to stop what drives mass epidemics rather than just respond to individual diseases". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Mallapaty, Smriti (December 2, 2020). "Meet the scientists investigating the origins of the COVID pandemic". Nature. 588 (7837): 208. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-03402-1. PMID 33262500.
  15. ^ Hernandez, Javier C. (January 13, 2021). "Two Members of W.H.O. Team on Trail of Virus Are Denied Entry to China". The New York Times Company.
  16. ^ Latinne, Alice; Hu, Ben; Olival, Kevin J.; Zhu, Guangjian; Zhang, Libiao; Li, Hongying; Chmura, Aleksei A.; Field, Hume E.; Zambrana-Torrelio, Carlos; Epstein, Jonathan H.; Li, Bei (August 25, 2020). "Origin and cross-species transmission of bat coronaviruses in China". Nature Communications. 11 (1): 4235. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-17687-3. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 7447761. PMID 32843626.
  17. ^ Pelley, Scott (May 9, 2020). "Trump administration cuts funding for coronavirus researcher, jeopardizing possible COVID-19 cure". Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  18. ^ "Coronavirus: US cuts funding to group studying bat viruses in China". May 9, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  19. ^ Wadman, Meredith; Cohen, Jon (May 8, 2020). "NIH move to ax bat coronavirus grant draws fire". Science. 368 (6491): 561–562. doi:10.1126/science.368.6491.561. PMID 32381695. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  20. ^ "Nobel laureates and science groups demand NIH review decision to kill coronavirus grant". Science.
  21. ^ "Letter to Francis Collins Urging to Reconsider Decision to Cut Coronavirus Research Funding" (PDF).
  22. ^ Baumgaertner, Emily; Rainey (April 2, 2020). "Trump administration ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronaviruses". The LA Times. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Cohen, Zachary (April 10, 2020). "Trump administration shuttered pandemic monitoring program, then scrambled to extend it". CNN. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  24. ^ Williams, Shawna (January 24, 2020). "Where Coronaviruses Come From (Interview)". The Scientist. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  25. ^ "The Next Pandemic". Explained. Season 2. Episode 7. November 7, 2019.
  26. ^ "Why Humans Are Responsible for the Coronavirus". Slate. December 23, 2020.
  27. ^ Gorman, James (January 28, 2020). "How do bats live with so many viruses?". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  28. ^ Bruilliard, Karin (April 3, 2020). "The next pandemic is already coming, unless humans change how we interact with wildlife, scientists say". Washington Post. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  29. ^ "Ebola, Dengue fever, Lyme disease: The growing economic cost of infectious diseases". National Science Foundation. December 16, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  30. ^ "Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola, Now the U.S. Has Cut Their Funding". The New York Times.
  31. ^ a b McNeil, Donald G. Jr (October 25, 2019). "Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  32. ^ "EcoHealth Alliance's Dr. Peter Daszak Elected to National Academy of Medicine". EcoHealth Alliance. October 15, 2018. Retrieved May 10, 2020.

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