Diagnostic laboratories that safeguard biological materials, equipment, and methodologies (know-how), play a critical role in the global campaign to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether they be naturally-occurring, accidental or deliberate (i.e. bioterrorism). Such laboratory facilities, however, were pioneered in and designed for developed countries with ample resources, and are therefore often too expensive, too complex and too “western” in design to be built and sustained in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Identifying ways and means to address this persistent challenge promises to strengthen global health security.
In this context, the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence have identified a Grand Challenge for Sustainable Laboratories as an innovative and promising approach. The Grand Challenge seeks to reimagine the physical laboratory infrastructure in order to reduce ongoing operational costs and ensure safe and secure handling of high consequence pathogenic materials, including ‘disease X’, whilst maintaining core functions of a diagnostic lab in low- and middle-income countries.
It is assessed that this Grand Challenge would stand a greater chance of success if supported by a broad-based, multi-sectoral consortium. Such a consortium would have significant advantages: diversity of interests across health, development, security and innovation sectors; a wider outreach to the innovation community; and greater ability to leverage resources to see innovative ideas through to reality.
WOAH and GAC are convening this Wilton Park conference to invite key stakeholders and investment partners to consider financial and technical contributions to make the Grand Challenge for sustainable laboratories a reality.
GAC and WOAH will present the outputs of a feasibility study, which demonstrated the potential to develop innovative solutions for biocontainment diagnostic laboratories, with a view to engaging and encouraging investment partners and stakeholders to form a coalition to implement the Grand Challenge.
This video from World Organisation for Animal Health and Global Affairs Canada explains why they are seeking innovative ideas for sustainable diagnostic labs that can bridge the gap and prevent the next outbreak.
In partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the World Organisation for Animal Health.