Steven Soderbergh riveted the attention of movie-goers worldwide with his 2011 film “Contagion,” about a deadly airborne viral disease. Virologists and public health officials praised the film for the accuracy of its depiction of the nature of pandemics, the disruption they cause in the social order, and what it takes to produce a vaccine against a new disease agent.
Where do matters stand now? Prof. Wayne Magee, a scientist with a distinguished career in applied and basic medical research, will update this subject in a presentation at Academy Village next Thursday (Nov. 7) at 3:30 p.m. entitled “When May Viral Outbreaks Lead to Pandemics?”
By tracing the course of several recent viral outbreaks (including a new threat to humans known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS-CoV), Magee will assess the likelihood of a devastating viral pandemic. He will examine how such factors as the density of the human population; the proximity of people to dense herds and flocks of domestic animals; and the swiftness of international movement of people and materials come into play.
The virology scene changes rapidly. Knowledge about the physical and chemical nature of viruses, how they are transmitted, and how they cause disease has only recently been acquired — the entire science of virology is a product of the 20th Century. Fortunately, in recent decades, scientists have developed techniques for isolating and growing viruses, for modifying them to make vaccine strains, and for studying how viruses evolve in nature. Is our knowledge sufficient?
Magee brings to this subject a rare background. He has experience as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, as a director of basic science programs at several universities and research centers, and as an innovative teacher. Although now retired, he is still active as an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology of the University of Arizona. He and his wife have been residents of Academy Village for over a decade.
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