The German-Kazakh Network for Biosafety and Biosecurity is organising a one-day symposium on the topic of One Health on 20 July at the Grand Thien Shan Hotel in Almaty together with its Kazakh project partner, the National Scientific Center for Extremeley Dangerous Infections. One Health is a collaborative and intersectoral approach promoted by WHO to understand the interactions between humans, animals and plants and their impact on public health. The Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia has a long history of its people interacting with nature, with both positive and negative impacts. The symposium aims to contribute to understanding the impact of the One Health approach on the Republic of Kazakhstan.

International guests Dr. Denise Haslwanter from Einstein College in New York/USA and Dr. Lidia Chitimia-Dobler from Munich/Germany will talk about their work on the development of a yellow fever vaccine and the exciting interaction between TBEV and ticks. Other speakers from Kazakhstan and Central Asia will give an overview of their latest research. 

All members and friends of the German Biosafety Programme are invited to attend this symposium, if not on site then online (a ZOOM link will be provided on the day of the symposium), to learn about advances on haemorrhagic fevers, anthrax and new methods for detecting Extremely Dangerous Pathogens (EDP). 

For more information see: www.gerkaznet.com 

In these times of a pandemic, it becomes clear how important it is to have a close meshwork of biosurveillance on naturally occurring pathogens in countries. Awareness and preparedness help to monitor the spread of pathogens, identify spontaneous outbreaks among humans and livestock and limit the spread of the disease in a timely manner. This online Symposium "Know your pathogens - Eurasian Online Symposium on biological health hazards" organised by the German Biosecurity Programme (represented by the GIZ and IMB) and its three partner countries Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan aims to inform participants about advances in the research and diagnostic on selected extremely dangerous pathogens, relevant for the region. We invite all members of the German Biosecurity Programme to visit this online Symposium (ZOOM Link will be provided on http://www.gerkaznet.com/symposium), learn about advances in SARS-CoV2 diagnostics, haemorrhagic fevers, Anthrax and means to detect EDPs. Furthermore, we encourage participants to ask questions to the speakers and report about their experiences in the field. Learn more about the symposium here: http://www.gerkaznet.com/symposium

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 and has spread throughout the world during the past few months. Until now, approximately 3.5 million people were infected and more than 200.000 died as a consequence of the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences beyond the sickness itself. In order to limit the spread of the virus control measures were applied placing a large part of the global population in quarantine. An essential factor in successfully combating the virus is the expansion of test capacities.

At the beginning of the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB) provided material and technical expertise to establish COVID-19 diagnostics at the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) in Tbilisi (Georgia). The IMB successfully collaborates with the NCDC since 2013 in the framework of the German Biosecurity Programme, so the staff of the NCDC was able to implement the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic assay within a very short time. With increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia, the NCDC is facing challenges not only of financial but also logistical nature due to supply shortages and flight cancellations. To further support the Georgian partner in the pandemic crisis the IMB provided additional material in several partial deliveries. In order to overcome logistical hurdles, two of these deliveries were organized with the assistance of the Embassy of Georgia in Germany and the Embassy of Germany in Georgia, respectively. The shipment included diagnostic material for both, virus and antibody detection and was handed over to the NCDC director Prof Amiran Gamkrelidze by the German Ambassador Mr Knirsch and the  German military attaché Lieutenant Colonel Ukerwitz. The collaboration and cohesion over the crisis further strengthens and intensifies the close partnership between the IMB and NCDC. 

In the German Biosecurity Programme, digital and virtual methods and tools have always been used for some of the activities carried out with various partner countries. Nevertheless, travel restrictions and limited possibilities to meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the need for digital solutions in order to keep up the project work. 

A webinar and exchange session between the five German institutions that implement the Biosecurity Programme as well as other biosecurity projects – the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, the Robert Koch Institute and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – provided the opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices. 

During the webinar, more than 60 participants were able to hear presentations from six different projects that either found individual ways to transfer on-site activities into the virtual space or extended and created digital resources. Their achievements encompassed very different ideas. One project rethought a workshop series that usually takes place in person into a virtual, informative format that leaves space for networking. In another case, trainings were conducted individually. Videotapes of the sessions were then used to evaluate the trainings collectively which made it possible to continue cross-border collaboration even when travels were not possible. In a third project, an international tabletop-exercise has been conducted with participants located in various time zones using a remote system. Furthermore, GO4BSB and all its possibilities, including e-learning, supplementing online-trainings, and the COVID-19 Information Hub were presented.

A complementary exchange session then enabled participants to dive deeper into and discuss topics such as didactics for online trainings, the use of digital tools for trainings and data security questions when developing own content. The possibility to learn from colleagues within the German Biosecurity Programme and neighbouring projects helped to spark new ideas and find synergies.

All participants agreed that virtual formats will never be able to fully replace on-site trainings, personal exchange and in-person networking. Nevertheless, many solutions found in the biosecurity projects made it possible to keep working on enhancing biosecurity and staying in contact even in these challenging times. Moreover, virtual activities also hold advantages, for example to meet more frequently or address more people located in different places. Hence, some of the solutions developed during the pandemic will be kept as an additional way to work even after the pandemic.

In November 2021, the leader of the project Prof. Martin H. Groschup and Dr. Franziska Stoek could realize a trip to the Mauritanian partner institute ORNADEP for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. After two years of the running project phase, a general coordination meeting was planned in order to talk with the partners about the project activities, the progress of the project and the planning of upcoming actions. In addition, there has been major reorganization at the ministerial level in Mauritania in the last year. The purpose of the trip was to get to know these new authorities’ structures and to introduce the FLI as well as the project to the new Minister of Livestock and to the Ministry of Health. The FLI team also met the local German ambassador and the head of the cooperation section of the German embassy in Mauritania to promote the project and discuss possible synergies with the embassy. After three interesting days full of new insights and experiences, the FLI delegation left the country back to Germany. Based on this, further visits are planned for early summer 2022 to bring the project to a successful und fruitful resumption after two years of limitations and deprivations due to the pandemic situation.

Photo by German embassy in Mauritania shows:
Dr. A. Göllner-Scholz (head of the cooperation section of the German embassy), employee of the ministry, Prof. M. Groschup, Bouna El Kotob (Chargé de mission of the Ministry of Health), employee of the ministry, Dr. F. Stoek, Y. Barry (ORNADEP)

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the need for nations to enhance their abilities to prevent, detect, and respond to all manner of biological threats, whether natural, accidental or deliberate. In this context, the biosecurity community also needs new ways to share and readily access the best available resources. Biosecurity Central provides a curated set of resources and tools applicable across the spectrum of biosecurity. The annotated library of reliable resources and tools is available without cost, online, and organized by topic and use case. The site is designed to be easily searchable, includes a guided exploration workflow, and provides key details on a page describing each resource with direct access to the resources and tools wherever possible.

Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program (WTRP), in support of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, sponsored the Biosecurity Central effort. WTRP partnered with the Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security and Talus Analytics to assemble a group of experts who provided their recommendations for items to include in the library. From these experts, a working group was formed that met regularly to advise on the initiative and reviewed the resulting resource library to provide ongoing input. 

The 18 fellows of the 2019 cohort of the GIBACHT programme (Global Partnership Initiated Academia for the Control of Health Threats) met at the BNITM for its first workshop from 8-12 April 2019. This training is part of the German Biosecurity Programme, funded by the Federal Foreign Office and led by BNITM with the partner institutions Robert Koch Institute, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and the African Field Epidemiology Network.
GIBACHT is responding to the need of countries with insufficiently prepared health systems and risk of accidental and deliberate release of infectious agents.
The GIBACHT training consists of 20 e-learning modules, three face-to-face workshops (in Hamburg, Berlin, and Kampala/Uganda), and distance-based group work to develop teaching materials (case studies). To date, 64 fellows from 19 countries have been trained.
The next meeting will take place during a second workshop at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin in July 2019.

The workshop “Introduction to Bioinformatics” took place in Kiev, Ukraine from 3rd to 7th June 2019. The workshop was conducted by the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) and implemented in partnership with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Eight participants from two Ukrainian research institutes - State Scientific Research Institute of Laboratory Diagnostics and Veterinary and Sanitary Expertise and State Scientific Control Institute of Biotechnology and Strains - joined the workshop. 

During the workshop, the participants learned basic principles of bioinformatics covering (1) genome assembling and mapping, (2) sequence alignments, (3) basics of molecular epidemiology (phylogenetic analysis), and (4) variant calling. Lectures were supported by hands-on trainings applying the introduced methods using Galaxy (https://usegalaxy.org/), an open source, web-based platform for biomedical research.

Up to now, more than 45.000 people were reported to be infected with the novel Coronavirus, of which over 1000 died as a consequence of the disease. The virus can be transmitted from person to person and has already spread to over 20 countries worldwide. In Germany, the first cases of Covid-19 (previously 2019-nCov) infections were diagnosed at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB) (https://instmikrobiobw.de/aktuelles). 

Since 2013, the IMB collaborates with the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) in Tbilisi (Georgia) within the framework of the German Biosecurity Programme. The NCDC is the national agency responsible for health and bio-surveillance and the control of infectious diseases in Georgia. To enable our Georgian partners to diagnose Covid-19, the IMB supported with material and technical knowledge to establish the diagnostic assay at the NCDC. The scientific staff of the NCDC were able to implement the assay immediately to diagnose suspected persons. The training to establish and validate reliable diagnostics has always been an integral part of the biosecurity project in Georgia and demonstrates in this acute outbreak situation its value.

The German-Kazakh Network for Biosafety and Biosecurity project implemented by GIZ in partnership with the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB), as part of the German Biosecurity Program, held a series of online trainings on biosafety and biosecurity for more than 50 new staff members of its strategic partner Institutions - the National Scientific Center for Especially Dangerous Infections (NSCEDI) with its nine Anti Plague Stations and the Research Institute for Biosafety Problems (RIBSP) in November/December 2020.

The interactive online trainings, led by Dr. Sulushash Zhumabayeva, an experienced trainer from GIZ/Kazakhstan, and Dr. Lukas Peintner, project coordinator from IMB/Germany, enabled the participants to find answers to such questions as: How may I efficiently protect myself from extremely dangerous pathogens? How are blood borne pathogens transmitted? How do I organise a safe transport of patient specimens from the clinics to the diagnostic laboratory?

During the webinars participants addressed such topics as biosafety and biosecurity principles, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, transmission of blood borne pathogens and the safe transport of patient specimens. In addition, hot topics, such as the current COVID19 pandemic, were also discussed and best practices were compared to the experience from the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology. 

The efforts were highly appreciated by the participants of the online trainings as well as by the management of both institutions. Dr. Toktassyn Yerubayev, Director of the NSCEDI, noted that these webinars proved to be an efficient way to build capacity of new staff members of the NSCEDI as well as those from its remote Anti Plague Stations. Dr. Abeuov, Director of the RIBSP Training Center, highlighted that the trainings were organized at a high level, held in Kazakh, and provided for enhancement of the RIBSP staff professional qualifications on issues related to biosafety and biosecurity.

Considering the global COVID 19 pandemic situation, RIBSP kindly suggested that the German-Kazakh Network for Biosafety and Biosecurity project hold biosafety and biosecurity trainings/webinars in the Kazakh language for specialists of scientific research institutes and scientific laboratories located in all regions of Kazakhstan.

The German-Kazakh Network for Biosafety and Biosecurity project believes that webinars are an efficient tool to enable cutting edge training to Kazakh scientists in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. The Project envisions to offer further webinars to its partner institutions, as the knowledge and skills obtained during trainings will help the participants to more efficiently protect themselves from extremely dangerous infections, as well as to more effectively struggle the COVID 19 pandemic.