Innovation at the Heart of Council on Competitiveness Launch Summit

If the United States is going to remain competitive in the global economy, the country needs more innovations from more people, faster — and UC Davis can be a guide in many areas, speakers said March 27 during the first day of a “launch summit” hosted on campus by the national Council on Competitiveness.

“Here on the campus of UC Davis we are seeing place-based innovation in action,” said Deborah L. Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the nonprofit Council on Competitiveness.

The council’s National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers’ Phase 2 Launch Summit brought together university, research lab and workforce leaders for a two-day event that included presentations, panel discussions, breakout groups and tours of campus…

Portrait of Howard-Yana Shapiro and Alfred Chuang.

Howard-Yana Shapiro and Alfred Chuang to Co-Chair Advisory Board

We are excited to announce Alfred Chuang and Howard-Yana Shapiro have accepted roles as co-chairs of the UC Davis Grand Challenges External Advisory Board.

Chuang is the Founder and General Partner at Race Capital and sits on Chancellor May’s Board of Advisors. Recognized by Andreessen Horowitz as the “Silicon Valley CEO’s CEO,” Chuang has shown unmatched abilities to create and develop world-changing enterprises. As an accomplished entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he has displayed phenomenal skills in executing broad visions in highly competitive markets. As a Software Development Forum Visionary Award winner, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, UC Davis Outstanding Alumnus Award, and UC Davis Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal, Chuang’s deep understanding of how education can help change the world and how entrepreneurship can advance solutions to the world’s wicked problems will add exceptional insight and remarkable acumen to our developing board.

Shapiro has built an extraordinary career in sustainable agriculture and agroforestry systems, plant breeding, molecular biology and genetics during the past 50 years. He helped lead Mars, Incorporated as Chief Agricultural Officer for two decades, applying ethical production principles at a global scale and fostering the “unprecedented and uncommon collaboration” necessary for a sustainable future. A former Fulbright Scholar, Ford Foundation Fellow, winner of the National Endowment for the Humanities Award, and recipient of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Award of Distinction and Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement in Innovation award, the Senior Fellow in the UC Davis Plant Sciences Department has dedicated much of his life to ending world hunger and malnutrition, founding both the African Orphan Crops Consortium and the African Plant Breeding Academy. Shapiro’s leadership will be invaluable as Grand Challenges engages the campus community and grows our partner networks to successfully tackle the world’s most pressing issues.

Welcome Alfred and Howard!

Professor Christine Kreuder Johnson Appointed New Director for the UC Davis Institute for Pandemic Intelligence

UC Davis Grand Challenges is pleased to announce Professor Christine Kreuder Johnson as the new Director of the Institute for Pandemic Intelligence (IPI). Dr. Johnson has been serving as a Champion for the Grand Challenge on Emerging Health Threats since inception in 2022. The Institute for Pandemic Intelligence was also founded as part of the UC Davis Grand Challenge for Emerging Health Threats in 2022.

“Dr. Johnson possesses unparalleled knowledge of how to mitigate pandemic threats,” said Dr. Jonna Mazet, Vice Provost of Grand Challenges. “She is the ideal person to lead the university’s work in building a collaborative, transdisciplinary network to prepare for impending threats to health.”

Harnessing the Power of UC Davis for Pandemic Prevention

Preparing for the next pandemic requires implementing innovative practices and technologies developed by UC Davis and our partners to identify, respond to, and mitigate epidemics with the goal of saving lives. Professor Johnson brings over 20 years of experience in education, research, policy, partnerships, and strengthening capacity for pandemic prevention and global health security.

At UC Davis, Dr. Johnson has been leading initiatives to investigate the root causes of emerging infectious diseases and identify novel solutions to mitigate and prevent pandemic threats. Her research activities focus on zoonotic disease spillover and spread dynamics, epidemiologic drivers of zoonotic disease transmission, ecosystem level processes that impact wildlife population health and emerging infectious diseases, and mechanisms underlying species declines. She provides epidemiologic support to national and state agencies during unusual outbreak events and has developed and implemented risk-based approaches for surveillance and standardized risk assessment to enable systematic data analysis across a range of field studies from the local to global scale.

Her accomplishments include the design of core didactic instruction in One Health, ecosystem health, and population health for graduate and professional degree programs and primary mentorship to over 45 graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. From 2009-2020, Professor Johnson served as epidemiologist for USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project, which aimed to optimize global surveillance activities to identify infectious disease threats at high-risk animal-human interfaces and worked with host country governments and international organizations to meet global health priorities. She also directed surveillance activities for PREDICT to implement concurrent animal and human sample and data collection needed to detect disease spillover, amplification, and spread and inform risk mitigation strategies.

Currently, Professor Johnson serves as Principal Investigator for the EpiCenter for Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence (NIH-NIAID Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Disease), which seeks to strengthen disease detection capabilities for high priority zoonoses and understand adaptation in spillover and transmission, providing epidemiologic insight to mitigate risk and prevent epidemics. This work, implemented with collaborating scientists in Peru and Uganda, is investigating the influence of environmental change, especially deforestation and climate, on ebolaviruses, coronaviruses, and arboviruses at the edge of forest and urban ecosystems. Professor Johnson also directs the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics, which is a team-based learning environment using data intensive approaches to inform solutions to complex problems spanning animal, human, and environmental health.

“Through the Institute for Pandemic Intelligence, we hope to harness the power of UC Davis and capture what triggers these emerging health threats with early detection and new technologies. We also are working to understand how these threats impact both humans and animals, and how we can inform community engagement and environmental stewardship,” said Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson serves as Professor of Epidemiology and Ecosystem Health in the School of Veterinary Medicine, as Associate Director of the One Health Institute. She was elected into the National Academy of Medicine for pioneering approaches to surveillance of emerging diseases at the animal-human interface and investigating environmental drivers for spillover of viruses. She is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a distinguished U.S. Science Envoy for the Department of State.

More about Professor Christine Kreuder Johnson

• UC Davis News: Professor Christine Kreuder Johnson to serve as U.S. Science Envoy
• On CBS 60 Minutes: The Oct. 30 episode of 60 Minutes featured the EpiCenter for Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence work near the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
• UC Davis News: The Link Between Virus Spillover, Wildlife Extinction and the Environment
• UC Davis News: Epidemiologist Elected to National Academy of Medicine

More about Grand Challenges

Addressing our planet’s most complex issues requires new perspectives and visionary action. Grand Challenges is catalyzing the campus community to go beyond team science to holistically tackle wicked problems. Built from a foundation of grassroots work and prioritized by leaders across UC Davis, Grand Challenges cultivates and champions work to understand and find innovative solutions to complex issues. The work done by our campus community will serve as a global model and enable our world to move forward with equity and resilience.

Media Contact

Adam Jensen, Grand Challenges Communications Manager,

CEPI teams with UC Davis to identify viruses most likely to emerge

CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and University of California, Davis have announced a new partnership agreement to advance and expand the application of “SpillOver,” a viral ranking app that directly compares the risks posed by hundreds of animal and human viruses. The database ranks hundreds of virus, host, and environmental risk factors to identify viruses with the highest risk of zoonotic spillover from wildlife to humans and to highlight those most likely to spread and cause human outbreaks.

“Together we will use cutting-edge methods to dramatically increase the amount of virus data available for risk ranking. This is a critical step forward in streamlining vaccine pipelines with the power to revolutionize epidemic and pandemic preparedness.”

CEPI will provide up to US$1.76 million in funding to take the “SpillOver” app to the next level, identifying and expanding its database to include new risk factors for disease spillover, like viruses that infect domesticated animals and viruses harboured by reptiles and amphibians. Researchers at the UC Davis One Health Institute will also pioneer a new system, using artificial intelligence, which is capable of parsing multiple sources in search of these viral data, to enable automated updates.

UC Davis researchers developed the SpillOver platform, an open database, using data from 509,721 samples taken from 74,635 animals in 28 countries and public records as part of a virus discovery project. These data were then used to rank the spillover potential (ie, the risk of a virus jumping from animals to people) of 887 wildlife viruses.


Read the Full Story Here

Searching for the Next Deadly Virus, Before it Ignites Another Pandemic

Amazing work by the UC Davis One Health Institute to detect new viruses in global hotspots was recently featured on the CBS television news magazine 60 Minutes.

Christine Kreuder Johnson, Co-Champion of the Grand Challenges Emerging Health Threats focus area, was among those interviewed about this critical effort. Click here to read more about Epi-Intelligence at the One Health Institute’s website.


From 60 Minutes: “An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Uganda has alarmed scientists. While no cases have yet been discovered outside Africa, the U.S. has started screening all arrivals from Uganda. Ebola is among the deadliest of pathogens capable of jumping from wild animals to humans—just as COVID-19 likely did. It’s called spillover. Disease detectives warn the threat of spillover has never been higher as urban populations grow and come into contact with wild animals and their viruses. Since 2009, American scientists have discovered more than 900 new viruses. Now, the U.S. government is doubling down, sending virus hunters to global hotspots to find the next deadly virus before it finds us. We joined a team from the University of California Davis and their Ugandan partners in the rugged Impenetrable Forest on the search for Pathogen X.”

Grand Challenges Champions: Collaboration Key to Solving Daunting Issues

A passion for connecting people and tackling the world’s wicked problems unites the UC Davis Grand Challenges Champions.

Beth Rose Middleton Manning, Isabel Montañez, Christine Kreuder Johnson, and Justin Siegel spoke about their roles as challenge champions during a UC Davis Plugged In virtual event Sept. 28. Champions are people who have partnered with Grand Challenges to facilitate campus groups pursuing transdisciplinary activities on one of the initiative’s initial focus areas: the Climate Crisis, Emerging Health Threats, Sustainable Food Systems, and Reimagining the Land-Grant University.

“I think the opportunity for transdisciplinary engagement, research, communication, teaching, and training has never been better, and that is incredibly exciting to me,” Emerging Health Threats Champion Christine Kreuder Johnson said.

Watch the Full Virtual Event Here

Sustainable Food Systems Champion Justin Siegel highlighted his desire to be involved with the initiative by recalling a conversation he had with Howard-Yana Shapiro, Senior Fellow in the UC Davis Plant Sciences Department and Co-Chair of the Grand Challenges Board of Advisors. Shapiro noted that, while Siegel’s prior work on celiac disease was noble and important, the innovations impacted a relatively small percentage of the world population, inspiring Siegel to pursue additional world-changing work.

“Don’t you want to effect 50 or 100 percent of the world? Don’t you really want to do things that touch everybody’s lives,” Siegel recalled Shapiro saying. “And it just sat with me, and I was like, ‘The answer is, yes, I definitely do.’”

The scale of global problems can feel overwhelming at times, but the UC Davis campus community is making great contributions to solving these problems. The goal of the Grand Challenges initiative is to escalate our impacts by harnessing the power of the breadth and depth of expertise on our campus, along with our connected global networks, to make even more significant and immediate improvements in the lives of billions of people.

Climate Crisis Champion Isabel Montañez discussed not being daunted in the face of seemingly immense obstacles when it comes to global problems like climate change.

“It’s the innovative and purposeful research, such as what is being carried out here at UC Davis, that has a very high potential to turn around these impacts of climate change, and in our not-so-distant future,” Montañez said.

Reckoning with how UC Davis was founded, the heinous ramifications for Indigenous peoples, and creating a more just university will be a key component of Reimagining the Land-Grant University, said Champion Beth Rose Middleton Manning, noting the importance of community when it comes to devising real solutions.

“We’re going beyond the land acknowledgment to build relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and projects that are mutually beneficial,” Middleton Manning said. “We’re further realizing the promise of democratizing education by investing in diversity and inclusion.”

How each of the initial focus areas overlap and influence one another was a frequent point of discussion during the virtual event. UC Davis’ unique potential to address such a broad range of intertwined issues was also highlighted.

“We’ve all been saying these are wicked, tricky questions and the problems are deeply interconnected, and there’s not a one-word answer to any of these,” Siegel said.

Vice Provost for Grand Challenges Jonna Mazet, who moderated the panel, discussed the importance of developing comprehensive solutions, as well as including people and disciplines who have not been previously represented.

“We are now intentionally and aggressively accelerating our work on some of the world’s most daunting challenges,” Mazet said. “And, importantly, expanding the role and visibility of voices in the social sciences and arts and other disciplines to help society connect with and implement effective solutions.”

And, all agreed, those solutions have never been more needed than right now.

“This is a defining moment in so many ways and Davis is incredibly well-placed to meet the moment,” Kreuder Johnson added.

Grand Challenges is growing and additional opportunities to be involved are happening soon. To get involved, please contact us at Follow us on Twitter: @GC_UCDavis.

Grand Challenges Announces Initial Focus Areas

Climate change presents growing risks to life on Earth, personal decisions take on increased significance in an age of emerging health threats and antiquated food systems impact millions of lives every day. UC Davis is a model for universities around the world, and how we operate as a land grant university has never been more important – especially because of our ability to make positive change.

Broad and often nuanced solutions are needed for the host of complex problems facing the world. UC Davis Grand Challenges was initiated to help remove obstacles to transdisciplinary collaborations and to use the power of expertise in our campus community to find more holistic solutions to some of these daunting issues. The initiative is working rapidly to bring disciplines together in new ways to advance UC Davis’ global impact.

Read More…

Team Research Forum: Harnessing the Power of Transdisciplinary Research with UC Davis Grand Challenges

Join UC Davis Grand Challenges and the Office of Research Friday, November 4 at 10:30 a.m. for a discussion on how you can be involved in the university’s initiative to use transdisciplinary research to advance solutions to the world’s wicked problems.

Grand Challenges is moving forward rapidly, using a social and environmental justice lens to connect the campus community around solution-oriented work and increase the university’s ability to make tangible, positive change. This discussion will highlight Grand Challenges’ initial focus areas – Emerging Health Threats, Climate Crisis, Sustainable Food Systems, and Reimagining the Land-Grant University – as well as include an example of one of the initiative’s engagements and show how people from every discipline can get involved with creating solutions to these critically important challenges.

Click here to register for the virtual event via Zoom.


Speakers will include:

Jonna Mazet, Vice Provost of Grand Challenges

Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD, is the Vice Provost of Grand Challenges and the Chancellor’s Leadership Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Disease Ecology at the University of California, Davis, where she founded the One Health Institute. Prof. Mazet is active in global health problem-solving, especially for emerging infectious disease and conservation challenges. She was the Global Director of the viral emergence early warning project, PREDICT, developed with the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats Program. An elected member of the US National Academy of Medicine, she also serves on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats, One Health Action Collaborative, and Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats.




Christine Kreuder Johnson, Co-Champion of the Emerging Health Threats Grand Challenge

Christine Kreuder Johnson is Professor of Epidemiology and Ecosystem Health and Director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics. Her work is committed to transdisciplinary research to characterize impacts of environmental change on animal and human health, inform preparedness for emerging threats, and guide public policy at the intersection of emerging disease and environmental health. Professor Johnson’s research has pioneered new approaches to characterization of emerging threats and disease dynamics at the animal-human interface in rapidly changing landscapes that constitute “fault lines” for disease emergence, disease spillover and subsequent spread.





David Coil, Public Health Coordinator at UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services

David Coil is the Public Health Coordinator at Student Health and Counseling Services at UC Davis. Over the last few years, David has worked on three aspects of pandemic response; helping set up and run the asymptomatic testing operation in Davis, working on methods for environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, and helping coordinate genotyping/sequencing efforts to track viral variants. Prior to the pandemic, David was a lab manager responsible for supervising research projects in microbiology, microbial ecology, and genomics in the Eisen Lab. A significant portion of his previous efforts have been in science communication and outreach, including sending bacteria to the space station. David is the creator of “Gut Check: The Microbiome Game.” David received his PhD in 2005 from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington, working on retroviruses. Since then he has lectured at the UW, done a post-doc in Belgium working on Legionella, and helped direct a non-profit in Alaska called Ground Truth Trekking.



Heather Bischel, Assistant Professor, UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Heather Bischel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis. Bischel’s research aims to support public and environmental health through safe and effective water and wastewater management. In 2020, Bischel launched the wastewater-based disease surveillance program of Healthy Davis Together (HDT), a collaboration between the City of Davis and UC Davis to combat COVID-19. She is now working with partners UC Merced to expand wastewater monitoring in three counties through the Healthy Central Valley Together (HCVT) project. HCVT aims to increase health equity in wastewater surveillance in rural and underserved communities in California. UC Davis was designated a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded “Center of Excellence” for wastewater-based COVID-19 surveillance. Bischel recently began collaborating with researchers at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on the Pandemic Readiness and Equity through Virus Epidemiology of Wastewater (PreVIEW) project. HDT’s wastewater-based epidemiology program’s overall success has earned national recognition, including mentions in WIRED, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Get Involved! Sustainable Food Systems Event Oct. 4

UC Davis Grand Challenges will host its inaugural campus convening on creating Sustainable Food Systems Oct. 4. Sustainable Food Systems is one of the first four Grand Challenges topic areas, and we want to connect with all faculty who are interested in contributing to real change in food systems.

This first campus convening for Sustainable Food Systems will take place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4. The event will be held virtually or at a to-be-determined on-campus location, and will be split into two hours. All are invited to attend either or both parts:

11-11:50 a.m. — Sustainable Food Systems Grand Challenge

  • Connecting with the campus community who are working in all parts of food systems
  • Providing input on what makes UC Davis special and how we can most positively impact food systems
  • Strategizing on next areas of engagements and strategic activities that can be pursued collaboratively across campus
  • Learning about Grand Challenges and additional opportunities to get involved

12-12:50 p.m. — National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines

  • The first activity arising from the Sustainable Food Systems Grand Challenge was the successful drafting and selection of a concept outline to compete for the NSF Regional Innovation Engine
  • We are now ready to move that concept forward and develop it into a full proposal to NSF for regional economic development and food innovation commercialization through Aggie Square.

Grand Challenges is working to bring together individuals from all colleges and schools across the many disciplines represented at UC Davis to holistically tackle immense societal and environmental challenges in an inclusive, coordinated, and strategic way.

Please click here to register for the meeting by Wednesday, Sept. 28.

If interested in participating in the NSF Innovation Engines proposal, even if you cannot attend the meeting, please fill out the following preparation form by 12 p.m. Oct. 3.

NSF Regional Innovation Engines Prep Form

If you cannot attend the meeting but would still like to be involved and informed, please email:

Join Us for Grand Challenges: Harnessing the Power of UC Davis

Learn more about Grand Challenges by hearing about the initiative directly from those involved! Register now for a Zoom webinar moderated by Vice Provost of Grand Challenges Jonna Mazet and featuring each of the Grand Challenges champions.

Discover how our expert faculty and researchers are unpacking the complex issues of climate change, UC Davis’ status as a land-grant university, sustainable food systems, and emerging health threats while developing innovative solutions to create a better world for all.

Grand Challenges: Harnessing the Power of UC Davis takes place from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. PDT Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Click here to register for the virtual event via Zoom.

Speakers include Climate Crisis Champion Isabel Montañez, Emerging Health Threats Champion Christine K. Johnson, Reimagining the Land Grant University Champion Beth Rose Middleton Manning, and Sustainable Food Systems Champion Justin Siegel.

Register today!

Click here to register for the virtual event via Zoom.