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WHO renews partnership with UK Collaborating Centre to facilitate biosafety training globally

In the wake of recent global outbreaks, people around the world were alerted to the importance of proper biosafety precautions, and the role they can play in stopping public health catastrophes.

WHO has furthered its commitment to ensuring preparedness for future pandemics, renewing its relationship with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Applied Biosafety and Training, based in Salisbury, United Kingdom. The centre, which began its partnership with WHO in 2019, works to prepare for, prevent and respond to health threats. It supports WHO with fundamental expertise in an area of growing importance.

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The Collaborating Centre (CC) is based around two groups: the Biosafety, Air and Water Microbiology Group and the Novel and Dangerous Pathogens Training Team. Both are part of the UK Health Security Agency.

Proper biosafety training ensures that laboratory personnel and researchers understand how to properly handle infectious organisms and hazardous biological materials. The CC serves Member States globally by developing and delivering such training for WHO. Its team provides technical expertise and advice on the effectiveness of laboratory biosafety systems to facilitate the global development of sustainable laboratory facilities. It also supports WHO to develop biosafety and biosecurity guidance and standards.

“Having a reliable partner that can deliver life-saving training throughout the region and world is a fantastic asset, not to be taken lightly. Now that we have renewed the Novel and Dangerous Pathogens Training Team’s status as a WHO collaborating centre, the future of proper biosafety training looks bright,” said Joanna Salvi Le Garrec, Technical Officer, Infectious Hazard Management at WHO/Europe.

Since it was first designated, the CC has partnered with WHO/Africa and WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, to deliver biosafety training to countries neighbouring Uganda in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak there. The training provided helped Uganda’s neighbours to prepare their laboratories better and understand relevant workflows and biosafety precautions for possible spread of the disease into their own countries. This level of precaution enables best-possible action to avoid spread and limit disease casualties.

The re-designation will allow such work to continue until 2027, at which point it can be renewed once again with an updated focus. The overarching goal of the collaboration is to reduce the risk of high-threat pathogens emerging or re-emerging. The current focus is to update and implement the biosecurity guidance, along with investigating the evidence base behind laboratory procedures to inform future work practices.