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WHO International Pathogen Surveillance Network Launches With $4M in Donor Funding

NEW YORK – The World Health Organization said Friday that it has received $4 million from several donors to create a catalytic grant fund for organizations working in pathogen genomic surveillance.

The initial grants for the fund were provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellcome, and will support the newly launched International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN). This global network of pathogen surveillance entities is convened by the WHO through a secretariat at the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin, while the fund is hosted by the UN Foundation on behalf of the ISPN.

The new network and funding are intended to support pilot projects worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, in order to create an evidence base for how to scale up pathogen genomic surveillance quickly, the WHO said.

"Genomic surveillance is a critical tool for countries to respond to public health threats," Sara Hersey, WHO's director for collaborative intelligence, said in a statement. "However, access to genomics has been highly uneven, and there is a risk that the incredible capabilities built up during the COVID-19 pandemic will be lost as the world's focus shifts. The new fund will support the sustainable implementation of genomic surveillance in countries at all income levels, outside of pandemics, so that we can maintain these critical capabilities within national health systems."

Alex Pym, Wellcome's director of infectious disease, added in a statement that the fund can "generate the knowledge on how to move from tracking a pandemic to detecting new threats to public health and ensure that genomic surveillance gets sustainably embedded in healthcare systems."