Robert Koch Institute Partners with WHO to Launch Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin

German public health experts will support the work of WHO counterparts to better forecast, detect, and respond to worldwide health threats.

On September 1, 2021, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus inaugurated the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence. Based in Berlin, the new hub’s mission is to provide better data, analytics and decisions to detect and respond to health emergencies. Part of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme it will develop new tools to increase availability of key data and predictive models for risk analysis.  

“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,” said Dr. Tedros in a WHO press release. “This hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby we can share and expand expertise in this area globally.”

The WHO Hub will operate in close partnership with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s national public health institute. On the day of the hub inauguration, RKI President Lothar H. Wieler, a member of the IANPHI Executive Board, and Dr. Tedros signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the framework of the partnership.

RKI has considerably broadened its international public health activities over the past decade, supporting the strengthening of public health actors, including through its involvement in IANPHI. In 2019, it opened its Center for International Health Protection, which includes a dedicated unit for public health intelligence. RKI also increased its capacity to provide on-site and remote assistance in health emergencies and has been hosting WHO Collaborating Centers for emerging infections and biological threats, viral hepatitis and HIV, as well as the WHO Collaborating Center for Global Outbreak Alert and Response (GOARN)

"There are many areas where we can build a strong bridge together: building on existing collaborations to other national public health institutes, through our partnerships around the world, through the GOARN networks but also by further developing and strengthening molecular surveillance, a vital tool,” said Prof. Wieler. “We are delighted to partner in this new initiative and excited that RKI scientists will work alongside leading WHO experts here in Berlin to prevent future pandemics."

“The Robert Koch Institute is one of the world’s leading research agencies, charged with the monitoring and prevention of health threats,” said Dr. Tedros at the signing of the MOU. “I look forward to our two institutions working together even more closely in the years ahead to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.”

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the current director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, was appointed to lead the new hub while also serving as WHO assistant director general for Health Emergency Intelligence.

“Dr. Chikwe’s appointment is a recognition of his outstanding leadership in Nigeria. IANPHI and its members, nationally and regionally, are at his service in making his new mission a huge success,” said Prof. Duncan Selbie, president of IANPHI.

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