South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
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Media Release

6 May 2015

Research Funders unite to prepare for outbreaks

The Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) members convened at a conference to prepare a rapid research response for infectious disease outbreaks. The meeting, which was hosted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), took place at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town this week.

GloPID-R is the only initiative of its kind to bring together research funders on a global scale. The initiative’s aim is to prepare a collaborative research response within 48-hours of the discovery of an infectious disease epidemic with pandemic potential. Funded by the European Union under Horizon 2020, the initiative is coordinated by the University of Oxford (for the Isaric research network) and Fondation Mérieux (for the Aviesan research network).

The conference’s main objective was to take stock of the challenges and bottlenecks encountered by researchers and research funders in the context of the Ebola epidemic and to propose ways to address these problems in future outbreaks. The Ebola crisis has highlighted the importance of involving scientists at the outset of an epidemic so as to develop essential diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics. It has also demonstrated that it is important to think, plan and invest in research and innovation before a health crisis occurs.

“The South African Medical Research Council is delighted and privileged to be a member of such a prestigious network, said SAMRC Vice President and interim vice chair of GloPId-R Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele.  “Africa is prone to infectious disease outbreaks and we believe the network will be a catalyst and game-changer to address research bottlenecks during outbreaks.”

Presentations covered lessons learned from implementing clinical trials, how to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems to prevent infectious diseases turning into pandemics, community engagement, and the challenges of implementing rapid funding.
Moving from discussion to action, the members then proposed innovative solutions for future epidemics of pandemic potential to ensure the necessary resources are readily available.

“This meeting is a great step forward for GloPID-R in uniting funders from around the globe in their efforts to prepare a research response against the next infectious disease outbreak,” said Interim-Chair of GloPID Dr Line Matthiessen who is also Head of the Unit 'Fighting Infectious Diseases and Global Epidemics', Health Directorate, Research and Innovation DG, European Commission. “The Ebola crisis has demonstrated both the shortcomings of the current system and the potential of research and innovation to contribute to the ways out of such a crisis. We are grateful to the SAMRC and the Department for Science and technology for hosting this meeting and for its essential contribution to building GloPID-R.”

GloPID-R is the only initiative of its kind to bring together research funding organizations on a global scale to facilitate an effective research response within 48 hours of a significant outbreak of a new or re-emerging infectious disease with pandemic potential. The network is currently made up of 13 funding organisations from 12 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America. The interim chair is the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation, with Vice Chairs coming from Brazil, Canada, France and South Africa. The secretariat of the initiative is currently funded through the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and is run by the Fondation Mérieux (for the AVIESAN research network) and the University of Oxford (for the ISARIC research network).
GloPID-R focuses on the following objectives:

  • facilitate the exchange of information,
  • address scientific, legal, ethical and financial challenges,
  • implement a 'One Health' approach with close cooperation between human and animal health researchers,
  • establish a strategic agenda for research response,
  • connect infectious disease research networks,
  • actively involve developing countries.

GloPID Members:

  • CIHR- Canadian Institutes of Health and Research – Canada
  • Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología Mexico – Mexico
  • European Commission- DG Research & Innovation – European Union
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research/PT-DLR - Germany
  • INSERM / IMMI- Institut de microbiologie et des maladies infectieuses – France
  • Instituto Butantan and Instituto Fiocruz – Brazil
  • Instituto de Salud Carlos III – Spain
  • Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation – Argentina
  • National Health and Medical Research Council – Australia
  • National Research Foundation of Korea - South Korea
  • South African Medical Research Council - South Africa
  • Thai National Institute of Health, Department of Medical Sciences - Thailand
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – USA

Presenters included:

  • Jeffrey Mphahlele, Interim-Vice Chair GloPID-R and Vice President of Research from the South African Medical Research Council
  • Line Matthiessen, Interim-Chair GloPID-R and Head of the Unit 'Fighting Infectious Diseases and Global Epidemics', Health Directorate, Research and Innovation DG, European Commission
  • Jean-Jacques Muyembe, Director, National Institute for Biomedical Research, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Cathy Roth, WHO, Geneva
  • Annick Antierens, Deputy Medical Director, Médecins Sans Frontières, Geneva
  • Peter Horby, Associate Professor, Group Leader Epidemic Research Group Oxford (ERGO), Group Head / PI and Fellow, University of Oxford
  • Hubert Endtz, Scientific Director, the Fondation Mérieux
  • Ripley Ballou, Vice President, Emerging Diseases, New Product Development, Glaxo SmithKline

Technical Facilitation
Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele

Media Facilitation
Keletso Ratsela
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29 February, 2016
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