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International Pathogen Surveillance Network Launches Catalytic Grant Fund for Pathogen Genomics

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a groundbreaking initiative with US$ 4 million in funding to establish a catalytic grant fund aimed at organizations involved in pathogen genomic surveillance. This fund, generously supported by donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellcome, will facilitate projects worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to pilot innovative approaches and thereby build an evidence base for the rapid scaling-up of pathogen genomic surveillance.

Pathogen genomics involves analyzing the genetic code of viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing organisms to better understand their infectiousness, lethality, and transmission patterns. This information equips scientists and public health officials to identify and track pathogens, prevent outbreaks, and develop treatments and vaccines.

Sara Hersey, WHO Director for Collaborative Intelligence, emphasized the critical role of genomic surveillance in responding to public health threats. She highlighted the need for sustainable implementation of genomic surveillance globally, beyond pandemics, to ensure that essential capabilities remain integral to national health systems.

Wellcome's Director of Infectious Disease, Alex Pym, stressed the importance of pathogen genomics and surveillance in rapidly identifying and responding to outbreaks or emerging drug-resistant strains, particularly in regions with limited resources. Pym expressed confidence that the fund will facilitate the transition from pandemic tracking to proactive detection of new public health threats.

Manisha Bhinge, Vice President for Health at The Rockefeller Foundation, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the necessity of making pathogen genomics accessible to all countries and communities. Bhinge pledged support for the mission and emphasized the importance of global collaboration in preparing for pandemic and epidemic risks in the face of climate change.

The US$ 4 million grant fund will be available for members of the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN) to apply for funding starting February 2024. The fund aims to empower lower-resource members of the network to generate knowledge beneficial to the global genomics surveillance community.

Grants may be used for research to develop pathogen genomics surveillance tools as global goods or for piloting innovative approaches that can be shared across the network, thereby promoting equity of engagement and providing catalytic funding for scaling-up competencies in pathogen genomic surveillance, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

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