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Fiocruz integrates new WHO International Surveillance Network


Pamela Lang (Fiocruz News Agency)


Mario Moreira, president of Fiocruz, participated last Saturday (May 20), in Geneva, in the launch of the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN), an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence. The goal is to generate a global genomic surveillance platform to detect and respond to threats before they turn into epidemics or pandemics. Fiocruz comprises the initiative's leadership forum and intends to put its capacity and expertise at the network's service. The launch is a side event of the 76th World Health Assembly, which takes place on May 21-30.

Fiocruz comprises the initiative's leadership forum and intends to put its capacity and expertise at the network's service Photo: WHO)

The president of Fiocruz, invited to speak in a panel about the role the institution played in the Brazilian health system's response to the pandemic, highlighted the production and supply of diagnostic kits, the creation of the Genomics Network, the COVID-19 Biobank and the Fiocruz COVID-19 Observatory, the technology transfer for the production of a national COVID-19 vaccine, and the choice of Fiocruz by PAHO/WHO as one of the two hubs for the development and production of vaccines with mRNA technology in Latin America.

“An event with pandemic potential may arise in areas with less responsiveness in the field of modern surveillance. Therefore, integrated multinational surveillance approaches are key to minimize the risk of the spread of outbreaks. It will be very important to work together and align efforts with other players in the field of pathogen genomic surveillance in order to accelerate progress and ensure that all countries have strong and sustainable health surveillance systems. For this, we reinforce that Fiocruz's structures and capabilities are available to this global initiative for the promotion of healthier and better lives around the world”, commented Mario Moreira.

For the Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, who represented WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the event, there was a capacity for genomic surveillance in many places around the world that was accelerated by the pandemic. The challenge now is to sustain that capacity and distribute it more equally across the world.

“We have to build a surveillance system that sustains itself, not one just for the rich. The system has to work for everyone, everywhere. We have to applaud the scientific community that was able to respond to the pandemic, but at the same time, we are faced with the challenge of maintaining investment in surveillance even after the pandemic outbreak and to make such responsiveness better distributed, as today they are still very unequal”, points out Ryan.

The Network receives funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and the German government, but plans to expand investment as more funders join the surveillance projects. The initiative also has two lines of action: communities of practice, which gather experts in the field of genomic data and aim to create protocols, data sharing and the development of data tools that can integrate public health systems; and country accelerators, to expand cooperation capacity for the development of local genomic surveillance structures.

WHO Assistant Director-General for the Division of Health Emergency Intelligence and Surveillance Systems, Chikwe Ihekweazu, emphasized, “no group here has all the answers. The purpose of the Network is to provide the conditions and coordination so that countries and institutions can put their knowledge, resources and capacity towards a global network to achieve a common goal”.

Also attending the launch panel as part of the Network's leadership forum were the Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Jenny Harries, the Director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation (Ceri) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Tulio de Oliveira, the Director of Infectious Disease at The Wellcome Trust, Alexander Pym, the Executive Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Leo Yee-Sin, the General Director of CDC Africa, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the Senior Vice-President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Naveen Rao, and the Director of the National Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics (ANLIS Malbrán) in Argentina, Josefina Campos.

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