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ZonMw awards 2.5 million euros to NCOH for research on pandemic preparedness

ZonMw is making 2.5 million euros available to the Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH) for research on pandemic preparedness. The research application was submitted through Utrecht University on behalf of the NCOH. The research follows a National Growth Fund application that NCOH researchers previously submitted together with the Pandemic & Disease Preparedness Centre (PDPC), a collaboration between Erasmus MC, Erasmus University and TU Delft. Dick Heederik, one of the four submitters: “We are extremely happy that ZonMw has awarded this money. Now we can get to work on important lessons learned from the corona pandemic.”

How can we detect a potential pandemic at an early stage and work together more effectively in the process? Analyses of the corona pandemic revealed a number of shortcomings that this study aims to tackle or improve. For instance, there was a lack of early warning methods for emerging infectious diseases. It also proved difficult to reliably assess key characteristics of pathogens and not easy to measure virus in the air as part of transmission studies. Developments in the field of mathematical modelling are rapid. For example, models are becoming available to predict pathogen development. It is important to gain experience with these and further develop the models. And perhaps most importantly: the strategies for detecting pathogens in humans and animals currently run in parallel and separately from each other. This needs to change and be more integrated.

Research for 24 postdocs

Dick Heederik (UU), Marc Bonten (UMC Utrecht), Marion Koopmans (Erasmus MC) and Annemarie Rebel (Wageningen University & Research and chair NCOH) jointly submitted the application from the NCOH. The money awarded will allow 24 postdocs to spend a year doing research at NCOH’s various partner institutes.

“It is initially a one-year programme, and hopefully this will become a longer period,” Bonten says expectantly. “That would be wonderful, of course.”