The Swiss confederation and WHO launch global BioHub for pathogen analysis, sharing and storage

SWITZERLAND – Switzerland has signed a memorandum of understanding with WHO to launch the first WHO BioHUB in Spiez, Switzerland.

The facility, which is part of the WHO BioHub System announced in November 2020, will help in safe reception, sequencing, storage, and preparation of biological materials for distribution to other laboratories, so as to facilitate global preparedness against these pathogens.

Pathogens are currently shared bilaterally between countries: A process that can be sluggish and deny the benefits to some. Member states will now be able to share biological material with and via the BioHub  under pre-agreed conditions, including biosafety, biosecurity, and other applicable regulations.

“Close international collaboration to ensure the timely sharing of epidemiological and clinical data as well as biological materials is of utmost importance. Switzerland supports the WHO BioHub initiative in its initial phase by providing the necessary infrastructure of a Swiss biosafety laboratory in Spiez,” said Swiss Federal Councillor Alain Berset, underscoring the importance of the newly arrived at agreement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed some light to the importance of having a system in which information and findings as well as pathogens can be rapidly shared among stakeholders for assessment and development of counter measures.

The Switzerland based facility will be running on a pilot phase using the SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, to test the feasibility and operational arrangements for sharing such material. The pilot project will map out the framework for work on other pathogens, necessary connections, and laboratory networks for future implementation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and other outbreaks and epidemics have underscored the importance of rapidly sharing pathogens to help the global scientific community assess the risk and develop countermeasures such as diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Timeliness and predictability in response to pathogenic threats is paramount in early mitigation of pandemics. This will aid in reduction of fatalities as witnessed with corona virus.

It took close to a year to get a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a duration in which over 40 million cases and well over 1 million deaths had been reported globally.

It is situations like these the WHO aims to address with the BioHub.

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