The global emergence of many severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants jeopardizes the protective antiviral immunity induced following infection or vaccination. To address the public health threat caused by the increasing SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the SARS-CoV-2 Assessment of Viral Evolution (SAVE) program. This effort was designed to provide a real-time risk assessment of SARS-CoV-2 variants potentially impacting transmission, virulence, and resistance to convalescent and vaccine-induced immunity. The SAVE program serves as a critical data-generating component of the United States Government SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group to assess implications of SARS-CoV-2 variants on diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics and for communicating public health risk. Here we describe the coordinated approach used to identify and curate data about emerging variants, their impact on immunity, and effects on vaccine protection using animal models. We report the development of reagents, methodologies, models, and pivotal findings facilitated by this collaborative approach and identify future challenges. This program serves as a template for the response against rapidly evolving pandemic pathogens by monitoring viral evolution in the human population to identify variants that could erode the effectiveness of countermeasures.
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