University of Nebraska Medical Center

Innovation & External Partnerships

Innovating through research, development, and external partnerships 


The GCHS has partnered with many academic groups at UNMC and external partners to tackle the most pressing problems in emerging infectious diseases. Critical research in the fight against COVID-19 was naturally a major focus the last few years, but many other studies of importance have also underscored the innovative, progressive approach that is truly at the heart of every GCHS project.



Recognizing the critical need for innovation and infection prevention and control for COVID-19, James Lawler, M.D, Dr. Jana Broadhurst, MD, PhD, and Dr. David Brett-Major, MD accelarated an existing GCHS project called the Isolation System for Treatment and Agile Response for high-risk Infections (ISTARI). ISTARI is a modular structure that can be used to care for patients who are highly contagious, and is based on an earlier iteration developed for Ebola. It's a disposable structure that fits inside a standard hospital room and dramatically reduces the need for PPE by wrapping the PPE around the patient instead of the healthcare worker.


PCR Diagnostics Test

Led by the Director of the UNMC Emerging Pathogens Laboratory, Dr. Jana Broadhurst, MD, PhD, and her team, UNMC was one of the first clinical laboratories in the U.S. to develop its own PCR diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 detection to support repatriated Americans in the National Quarantine Unit and Nebraska Biocontainment Unit before public health or commercial tests were available. The test received emergency authorization from the FDA, continues to support patient care at Nebraska Medicine and the surrounding community, and serves as a gold standard for the evaluation of novel diagnostic technologies.


PPE Decontamination Using UV Light

In response to the perilous shortage of N-95 respirators in the spring of 2020, Dr. John-Martin Lowe led a team to create a process to decontaminate PPE using ultraviolet light during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The process --the first of its kind to implement on a large scale -- involved collecting N-95 respirators at the end of each shift and utilizing ultraviolet light towers to decontaminate the masks and return them to hospital staff for re-use. This creative solution helped preserve a critical resource and allowed UNMC to maintain airborne precautions for its healthcare workers through the spring 2020 wave of COVID-19. As Dr. Lowe noted, "The pandemic has forced us to be as innovative as possible in filling gaps and responding to new challenges."


External Partnerships

Global Infectious Disease Preparedness Network (GIDPN)

Partnering with institutions with high-level isolation units in Singapore, Germany, South Korea and China, we are are developing a clinical trials network and clinical response force to ensure a rapid exchange of information and resources during pandemics. The goal: Local and worldwide health system and public health preparedness.


Special Pathogens Research Network (SPRN)

SPRN is a network of U.S. institutions with high-level clinical isolations units that are committed to the development and maintenance of rapid response clinical research infrastructure. The GCHS leads the SPRN with the network Director at UNMC and with core network central IRB infrastructure being housed at UNMC. The network has been leveraged and funded by federal agencies such as NIH and BARDA as well as industry to rapidly implement special pathogens clinical trials and expand access investigational new drug protocols. The network receives longitudinal extramural funding through the National Emerging Special Pathogen Training and Education.


International Engagement

Ghana: Strengthening Biosurveillance Capability

In July 2019, Jocelyn Herstein, PhD joined GCHS directors John Lowe, PhD, and James Lawler, MD in Ghana to help strengthen existing efforts for infectious disease surveillance and response. Working with key leaders from the U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Global Health Security, the Ghanaian Directorate of Agriculture, and the University of Ghana's School of Veterinary Medicine, our team explored new opportunities for OneHealth Research, investigating antimicrobial resistance with Ghanaian collaborators, and established collaborative partnerships with the 37th Military Hospital in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

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Nigeria: Enhancing Biopreparedness Effort

A team of UNMC/Nebraska Medicine physicians, nurses, and researchers conducted the second round of preparedness and response training for Nigeria Biopreparedness Initiative in July 2019. The GCHS, in partnership with the Walter Reed Program Nigeria, Henry Jackson Foundation, Nigeria Ministry of Defense, and U.S. Consulate Nigeria, continues to lead the way in readiness training all over the world.

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Berlin: 2019 World Health Summit

Dr. Lawler, GCHS executive director, and Dr. Herstein, director of the Sub-Saharan Africa Region, traveled to Berlin, Germany, to attend the 2019 World Health Summit to learn from notable speakers such as World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeus, PhD, and ministers of health representing Uganda, Ghana, Brazil, Paraguay, and Germany.

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Uganda: Gathering Clinical Data with Joint Mobile Emerging Disease Intervention Clinical Capability

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense established a multi-institute project after the 2013-216 Ebola virus spread in West Africa: the Joint Mobile Emerging Disease Intervention Clinical Capability (JMEDICC). Since its inception, the GCHS has worked with the JMEDICC project in Fort Portal, Uganda.

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