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Newest 'Geniuses'

Trevor Bedford, a computational virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is among this year's crop of MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipients, the Washington Post reports.

As the MacArthur Foundation, which bestows the $625,000 awards, says, Bedford developed a platform initially dubbed Nextflu to track the different strains of flu in circulating, but since expanded to track other viruses like Zika, Ebola, and, more recently SARS-CoV-2, and taking on the new name of Nextstrain. "Through his rigorous and timely analysis of evolutionary dynamics and commitment to creating open source and collaborative tools, Bedford is improving our collective ability to detect the emergence of novel viruses and to respond to infectious disease outbreaks," the foundation says in its announcement.

NPR adds that Bedford was also recently named as a 2021 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

"It's really been difficult for me to reconcile that with feeling like [these prizes are] coming out of my work on the pandemic," he tells NPR. "It's hard to accept things given that it came out of such terrible circumstances."

The new MacArthur fellows include Michelle Monje, a neurologist and neuro-oncologist at Stanford University; Victor Torres, a microbiologist at New York University; and Ibrahim Cissé, a biological physicist at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics; among others.