Africa: Call for Experts to Join Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens

A colourised scanning electron micrograph of a cell (pink) infected with a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (file photo).
press release

Issued on: 20 August - Deadline: 10 September

The World Health Organization (WHO) today issued an open call for experts to serve as members of the new WHO Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).

The SAGO will advise WHO on technical and scientific considerations regarding the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, and will be composed of a wide range of experts acting in their personal capacity. SAGO will also guide WHO on next steps for understanding the SARS-CoV-2 origins.

There have been an increasing number of high threat pathogens emerging and re-emerging in recent years with, for example, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Nipah, avian influenza, the latest being SARS-CoV-2. There is a clear need for robust surveillance and early actions for rapid detection and mitigation efforts, as well as systematic processes to study the emergence of these pathogens and routes of transmission from their natural reservoirs to humans. This is critical to helping WHO, Member States and partner institutions to prepare for future spillover threats and to minimize the risk of a disease outbreak growing into a pandemic.

From SARS-CoV-2, which continues to wreak havoc around the world, to the next "Disease X", this global framework to study the emergence of new and known high threat pathogens needs to be comprehensive and coordinated based on a One Health approach. It should also encompass biosafety and biosecurity. And it needs to be scientific, transparent, comprehensive, rapid and inclusive.

Functions of SAGO

In its capacity as an advisory body to WHO, the SAGO will have the following functions:

To advise WHO on the development of a WHO global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential;

To advise WHO on prioritizing studies and field investigations into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential, in accordance with the WHO global framework described in point (1) above;

To provide information and views to assist the WHO Secretariat in the development of a detailed work plan of the SAGO;

In the context of SARS-CoV-2 origins:

To provide the WHO Secretariat with an independent evaluation of all available scientific and technical findings from global studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2;

To advise the WHO Secretariat regarding developing, monitoring and supporting the next series of studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, including rapid advice on WHO's operational plans to implement the next series of global studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, as outlined in the 'Joint WHO-China Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part' report published on 30 March 2021 and advise on additional studies as needed; and

To provide additional advice and support to WHO, as requested by the WHO SAGO Secretariat, which may include participation in future WHO-international missions to study the origins of SARS-CoV-2 or for other emerging pathogens.

More information can be found on the Terms of Reference of the SAGO.

Who can express interest?

The SAGO will be multidisciplinary, with members who have a range of technical knowledge, field experience, skills and experience relevant to emerging and re-emerging pathogens. Up to 25 experts may be selected.

WHO welcomes expressions of interest from individuals with significant expertise in one or more technical disciplines outlined in the call for experts in order to ensure a One Health approach.

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