Global Health Press
Consortium launched to fight Zika virus and build Latin American response capacity

Consortium launched to fight Zika virus and build Latin American response capacity

zikaplanUmeå University is among the 25 leading research and public health organizations from Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe gathered in Recife, Brazil, for the launch of ZikaPLAN (Zika Preparedness Latin American Network). The global initiative, created in response to a Horizon 2020 funding call by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation, will address the Zika virus outbreak and the many research and public health challenges it poses.

ZikaPLAN takes a comprehensive approach by:

  • addressing the knowledge gaps and needs in the current Zika outbreak to better understand the disease, prevent its spread and educate the affected populations;
  • building a sustainable response capacity in Latin America for Zika and other emerging infectious diseases (EID).

“We are greatly honoured to host and coordinate this important global network of researchers around the world, but particularly in Latin America. This is part of a crucial collective and ongoing response to Zika, and other emerging infectious diseases in the long term,” says Annelies Wilder-Smith, Umeå University guest Professor and Principal Investigator of ZikaPLAN.

Umeå University’s coordinating role

The Umeå University Epidemiology and Global Health Unit is tasked with hosting and coordinating ZikaPLAN. At Umeå University, both global health and virology researchers are partaking. The consortium will be scientifically coordinated by Professor Annelies Wilder Smith, who is an international expert in infectious and vaccine preventable diseases. Associate Professor John Kinsman will work with social science for communication strategies with affected communities. Associate Professor Joacim Rocklöv will focus on modelling of vector control. Professor of virology Niklas Arnberg will focus on neuropathogenesis. All the non-scientific coordination will be managed by Dr. Raman Preet.

Other research organizations in the ZikaPLAN consortium will look at Zika’s connection with congenital syndromes and neurological complications, and the pathogenesis of severe cases, through a series of clinical studies. They will explore non-vector and vector transmission and risk factors for geographic spread, measure the burden of disease and investigate how the virus has evolved, comparing current and historic strains. ZikaPLAN will look at novel personal preventive measures, innovation in diagnostics and modelling on vector control and vaccine strategies to inform policy decisions. The social sciences will also play a role in ZikaPLAN, which aims to determine the best communication strategies to keep the affected communities informed.

A collaborative trio of Zika research consortia

ZikaPLAN will work closely with two other European Union-funded consortia, ZIKAction and ZikAlliance, to establish a Latin American and Caribbean network. This network will address the broader issue of building local capacity in Latin America to prepare for and rapidly launch a large-scale research response to emerging infectious disease threats. ZikaPLAN will contribute to developing an inter-epidemic research plan, policy recommendations, training, research networks and dissemination strategies that are designed to permanently strengthen local capacities, beyond the four years of the project. The three consortia will set up common bodies for the global management of scientific programs, communication, and ethical, regulatory and legal issues.

About the ZikaPLAN consortium

ZikaPLAN is coordinated by an Executive Board comprised of Prof. Annelies Wilder-Smith as director, representing the University of Umeå, Prof. Eduardo Massad, as deputy director, representing the Fundacao de Apoio a Universidade de Sao Paulo and 15 Work Package leaders from partner organizations. Independent ethical, scientific and industrial advisory boards provide guidance. ZikaPLAN receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (under grant agreement number 734584).

The consortium builds on expertise and existing relationships in a variety of research areas related to Zika and emerging infectious diseases. The 25 member organizations come from five continents, with 13 from Europe, eight from Latin America, two from the United States, one from Africa and one from Asia.

ZikaPLAN consortium members include:
• Umeå University, Sweden
• London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
• University of Glasgow, UK
• The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford, UK
• Queen Mary University of London, UK
• University of Ulster, UK
• Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
• Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam, The Netherlands
• Institut Pasteur, France
• Fundacion Universidad del Norte, Colombia
• Universidad del Valle, Colombia
• Fondation Mérieux, France
• The University of Liverpool, UK
• La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, USA
• The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
• Prins Leopold Instituut voor Tropische Geneeskunde, Belgium
• Fundacao de Apoio a Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil
• Instituto Butantan, Brazil
• Associao Tecnica-Cientifica Estudo Collaborativo Latino Americano de Malformacoes Congenitas, Brazil
• Fundacao Oswaldo Fiocruz, Brazil
• Instituto Medicina Tropical Pedro Kouri, Cuba
• Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal
• Schweizerisches Tropen- und Public Health-Institut, Switzerland
• International Vaccine Institute, Republic of Korea
• Fundacao Universidade de Pernambuco, Brazil

A ZikaPLAN consortium website will soon be available on The Global Health Network web portal.

Source: Umea University