Linking Epidemiology and Laboratory Research on Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses in EU and China
24 November 2016 — LinkTADs Newsletter no. 5
NOTE FROM THE COORDINATOR
It’s been three years since the eleven partners from the LinkTADs consortium met in Rome for first time to hold our kick-off meeting. In mid-October, the same eleven partners held our last progress meeting in Kunming, China, where we had the chance to update each other on the work conducted since our previous meeting one year before. We proudly realized that we reached all the targets we set to ourselves. In some cases, the requirements were actually exceeded (e.g. additional short-term visits and webinars and a sustainability workshop organized). In this final newsletter, I would like to highlight and summarize the major achievements reached by LinkTADs during its three years of life.
I would encourage to visit our website and/or follow the hyperlinks throughout the text if you would like to learn more about our activities. LinkTADs is all about increasing and improving the coordination in terms of animal health research between the EU and China. To do so, we started by creating as many opportunities as possible for researchers to meet face-to-face, mostly via workshops, but also through short visits and exchanges. These face-to-face meetings planted the seeds for new collaborations to be built. At this stage, mechanisms were created to establish sustainable collaborations, such as joint laboratories, workshops dedicated to the write-up project concept notes, joint project submissions, etc. These days we start to see the fruits from our efforts, with project proposals being funded, peer-reviewed scientific papers being established, and collaboration agreements being signed by partners.
Below I aim to expand a bit on the key achievements of LinkTADs as illustrated in the figure above:
Animal health priorities and gapsidentified, namely African swine fever (ASF), antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza, bovine tuberculosis (bTB), classical swine fever (CSF), japanese encephalitis (JE), peste des petits ruminants (PPR), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS),
11 technical workshops organized - The wide variety of topics of the workshops were chosen in alignment with the priorities and gaps identified at the beginning of the project. Covering epidemiology, laboratory and policy aspects, internationally renowned experts were invited to present and participate along with LinkTADs partners. This provided excellent opportunities to learn more about the research being conducted at different institutions, identify common interests and start exploring face-to-face potential pathways and topics of collaborations.
6 short academic visits and 3 exchange programs organized – LinkTADs set aside some funds for LikTADs partners to visit each other, thus having the time to visit each other laboratories and facilities, learn in depth about the activities and research lines, meet all researchers at the recipient institution (not just those directly involved in LinkTADs) and sit together and discuss the best way to collaborate.
7 webinars broadcasted - Also based on the interests of partners, a series of webinars were organized covering mostly specific diseases or policy aspects. Half in between dissemination and training, this modern tool was seen as very useful way to deliver talks by experts allowing a wide participation of stakeholders in EU/China, especially those who cannot physically participate in the project workshops. Moreover, the webinar recordings and presentations were made available online afterwards. Webinars usually lasted between one and two hours and always included a question and answer session.
5 trainings delivered - The training component of LinkTADs was closely aligned with the China Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (China FETPV), an interdisciplinary (One Health) approach that has been highly successful in building up field epidemiology capacity in a highly interactive and sustainable way. In addition, LinkTADs partners were sponsored to participate in specific sessions at the InterRisk Master, and a one-month on-line course on foot-and-mouth diseases was exclusively delivered by the European Commission for the control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD) to 40 Chinese veterinarians in different institutions.
Successful twinning with 7 other EC-funded consortia – During its lifetime, LinkTADs has actively interacted with seven other EU-funded consortia:
STAR-IDAZ, ASFORCE, RISKSUR, EFFORT, RAPIDIA, DRAGON-STAR and COMPARE. Such collaborations have been mostly through the joint organisation of events, as well as inviting experts from the other consortia to attend LinkTADs workshops.
Continuous dissemination through all media - All along the project, we have made use of all major social media to reach researchers, i.e. facebook, (113 likes), LinkedIn page (1250 connections and 193 group members), Twitter (469 followers, >1697 tweets), weibo (>95 posts, 46 followers). In addition, we have published 4 newsletters, and have organized 5 dissemination events jointly with major scientific conferences.
As a result of all the above efforts, we have built links with 41 research partners established. Of these, many have developed into the establishment of collaborations. Four of these collaborations have led to the establishment of joint laboratories, as well as the submission of 5 joint applications (one already approved on JE). These joint applications will surely grow even once LinkTADs is over. The same applies to joint peer-reviewed publications that are being submitted (3), accepted (1) or already published (5).
The biggest task now will be to ensure the sustainability of our efforts. For sure, LinkTADs spirit will be maintained by the new projects that have and will arise from the new partnerships created throughout these three years. Similarly, the maintenance of the focal point network will be key, as well as the tools and documents accessible through our website, which will continue to be active for the next three years.
I would like to finish by thanking the partners of the consortium for their great efforts, plus all the researchers that have attended or somehow participated in our activities over the last three years. It is thank to you all that we can today look back and feel proud of all what has been achieved.
Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, LinkTADs Coordinator
LinkTADs final results
Best Practices and Joint Innovation reports
Throughout the duration of LinkTADs, and using both face-to-face discussions and secondary sources, partners have collected valuable information on the status of R&I collaboration between EU and China in the field of animal health.
The Best Practices Report identifies a number of successful examples, including those involving projects and synergies with other programmes and initiatives, when these had a positive impact on R&I collaboration.
This report provides readers with a collection of best practices organised in the following sections:
Contact details (whenever available)
This analysis produced a number of recommendations that can be considered to further improve EU-China cooperation in R&I, especially in the field of animal health. A very first point addresses researchers, who are encouraged to focus on common priorities in the EU and China. Funding and administrative procedures should be simplified and made clearer; this is especially true for scientists travelling to Europe, as face-to-face discussions are proved to be the most successful means to establish long-term contacts. Moreover, internet policies in China may create hurdles that all European researchers willing to working in this region should acknowledge and try to overcome. The train-the-trainer approach has shown its effectiveness across the case studies, especially when coupled with a sustainability model from the very beginning.
Finally, networking of projects and initiatives is so effective that it could be considered as an obligatory activity for all future projects.
In order to ease the job of scientists willing to work on EU-China collaboration in the animal health field, LinkTADs has made strong efforts to identifying common trends and gaps in this area. One of the latest deliverables of the project, the Joint Innovation Report, starts out by introducing trends in EU-China cooperation in the field of animal health, and continues on describing the innovators in the field, particularly by listing the most innovative organisations in EU and in China, based on (joint) academic publications and patenting activities.
Four major trends are highlighted:
Influence of sectors such as diagnostics, genetics, big data, predictive analytics and mobile technologies, on R&D productivity in the field of animal health;
Revamping of timely and proactive preventing therapies;
Globalisation of operating structures in the industry field;
Wider partnerships, including different types of actors.
A desk-based research on publications and patents reveals that the number of publications on the searched animal health issues from China is very close to that of publications from the EU. However, EU countries tend to be more active in terms of joint publications with third countries, mostly with the USA and Israel. Following a historical trend, joint publication activities between EU and China in 2015-2016 still remain at a very low level. A similar conclusion can be drawn concerning patents, as based on this research, the patenting activity is most substantial in China, but co-operations in this field are rare (1 result for joint EU-China patent and 3 results for China-other country cooperation in patenting).
Finally, concerning specific topics, there is a very similar distribution between patents and publications, as the most researched disease is animal influenza. Joint publications, meaning those containing at least one EU institution and at least one Chinese institution, also focus primarily on animal influenza.
Although the project is now coming to an end, the LinkTADs Support System for Focal Point Network Members will continue to exist. As you may already know, the System includes online services available on the LinkTADs platform, such as e-Resources, Find the Funding and Partners search, as well as the support offered by the vast network of our project partners.
The LinkTADs LinkedIn group is another valuable tool that will continue to exist, but it will be transformed into a Focal Point Network group, collecting young and experienced scientists based in the EU and China, and working on animal health.
Our latest publication, the Focal Point Network Report, summarises the objectives, activities and achievements of the FPN during the project duration and proposes a plan to maintain the Network alive even after the end of EU funding.
If you haven’t done so yet, join our group, introduce yourself and your expertise and participate in the lively discussions on EU-China collaboration in the field of animal health. You will have a unique opportunity to network with like-minded peers, be up-to-date on forthcoming funding opportunities for research and teaching, and share your own accomplishments or news from a project or initiative of which you are part.
Roadmap for Strengthening EU-China Animal Health Research Cooperation
The work package on supporting policy dialogue in LinkTADs provided a framework for political dialogue and served an important purpose in the networking of policy makers. The goal was to enhance the framework for collaboration between the EU and China through the organisation of bi-regional consultations events, which in turn would help increase policy discussion related to animal health diseases. The roadmap provided recommendations for strengthening EU-China animal health research cooperation and been developed at the end of the project. The aim of the roadmap was to provide a sustainable strategy for EU-China research cooperation outside of European funded research programmes, and acts as the primary tool for the diffusion of key recommendations and outcomes at the policy / macro level.
The roadmap was formulated after surveys on the experiences and opinions of various EU and China animal health experts were compiled through phone interviews. It originally decided to perform the interviews over the phone to ensure that we received a reply to our questions and that the answers given were accurate, two characteristics which often plague email responses. The surveys consisted of questions covering communication channels, past and future topics, barriers to coordination, and areas for LinkTADs improvement, all under the umbrella of animal health. Though not all individuals contacted were both willing and able to provide us with answers, in the end we were able to interview 9 experts who provided us with valuable information.
Some of the primary recommendations from the study are below. Combined with other recommendations formulated from the STAR-IDAZ and DRAGON STAR programmes (available in final deliverable D5.3), it is hoped that they will go a long way in creating a sustainable relationship for EU-China research cooperation.
Though obviously not always practical, in-person meetings are still the most preferred form of interaction for both European and Chinese researchers and should be prioritised where possible;
There is a need for more transparency on the funding mechanisms and processes for China and greater synchronization between the EU and China related to funding programmes to ensure there will be no delay with the start of the project because funds in China have not been released;
There is a need to have Chinese funds guaranteed from the beginning (with a clear
budgetary value) to improve the security of programme fulfilment;
More funding channels in China to be explored to support the EU-China cooperation in Horizon 2020 projects;
Clear lists of research priorities should be formulated for each region;
Those on the European side are sometimes frustrated by the inability to work directly with Chinese partners at the decision making level, and therefore higher level officials should be made available or clearer transparency provided on how to advance requests;
Significance of language barriers appears to be lessening in future generations but their impact on applications for funding and joint proposals should not be ignored
The primary barrier to collaboration is how to manage regional differences related to intellectual property rights, thus more work should be directly focussed on harmonising this aspect of research between the two regions.
Similar to EU research concerns, Chinese policy makers find it difficult to liaise with key persons in EU region, thus a clearer path for communication with those necessary should be provided;
An improvement on the EU side is required to provide an official information channel for Chinese policy makers to receive updates on EU policy changes without having to participate in international meetings or engaging in personal communication.
Create other funding sources in China for animal health research, as currently having all efforts channelled through MoST is very inefficient. A good examples would be the British Council, which works with many different partners in China, not only MoST.
It is recommended to engage with industry colleagues, for example by involving them as full partners in a project.
Successful Examples of LinkTADs Collaborations
CIRAD and SVA visiting SHVRI China as some of LinkTADs project’s final activities
As part of LinkTADs final activities and in order to strengthen further research collaboration between LinkTADs partners, two additional short-term visits that were not scheduled originally in WP7 were implemented in 2016 after completing all planned short-term visits.
During the first visit Dr. Julien Cappelle from Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherché Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD)
visited SHVRI between the 6th and 13th of April, 2016. The purpose of this visit was to finalize the experiment protocol of the JEV project “Eco-epidemiology and Risk Analysis of Genotype Shift of Japanese Encephalitis Virus in Pigs and Mosquitoes”, to participate in the sample collection from pig farms. During the visits specific activities took place including the presentation of research progress, participations in laboratory meetings, and visiting pig farms.
LinkTADs Final Dissemination Event in Europe, 29 September, 2016 – Madrid, Spain
The final dissemination event in Europe of LinkTADs was held as a one-day session in the framework of EPIZONE’s 10th Annual Meeting “Going Viral”, in Madrid on 29th September 2016. The session featured several of the project’s partners, as well as the new Project Officer, an animal health expert at the European Commission. The meeting was open to participants at no cost and one young scientist was sponsored to attend.
The event unfolded in the following sections:
Overview of LinkTADs and the main achievements – Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo, Food and Agriculture Organisation
Chinese research funding and LinkTADs online cooperation opportunities – Marilia Cunha, Sociedade Poruguesa de Inovação
Identifying research collaboration opportunities on animal health for Europe and China – Julien Cappelle, Centre de cooperation international en recherché agronomique pour le développement
EU-China cooperation in Horizon 2020 – Razvan Anistoroaei, European Commission
Future opportunities in EU-China cooperation in animal health research – Gabriella Lovász, Europa Media Non-Profit Ltd.
Global African swine fever research alliance – fighting African swine fever together – Sandra Blome, Global African swine fever Research Alliance (GARA)
Applied research and teaching opportunities between the EU and China – Ana Mateus, Royal Veterinary College (RVC)
The session yielded very fruitful and high quality discussions on current needs in fighting Transboundary Animal Diseases and in research collaborations between the EU and China, as well as strategic points on the next steps that could be taken.
Participants showed considerable interest in the overall network established through LinkTADs and on the intention of partners to continue to keep the FPN alive after the end of the project. Also, the finding opportunities offered in China, as well as the “Find the funding” service were very attractive to the audience.
If you could not make it to Madrid, you can still download all presentations from our website!
LinkTADs Final Dissemination Event in China, 19 October 2016 – Kunming, China
On 19th October 2016 a special session was organised within the Framework of the 12th Symposium of the Chinese Association of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, with the aim to showcase LinkTADs accomplishments and to share ideas on how to maintain the excellent network established during the project duration.
The event included a poster session and a conference lasting two hours; it gathered around 60 participants from Chinese veterinary institutes, agricultural universities and industry, besides LinkTADs partners.
The project coordinator, Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo from FAO, introduced the project’s structure and highlighted the major achievements of the project in terms of networking opportunities (workshops), webinars, short academic exchanges, joint laboratories, trainings, dissemination and project proposals.
Xin Dong from SPI later took the floor, delivering a presentation on behalf of Mr. Nicolas Dandois from the EU Delegation to China; the slides provided an insight on EU-China cooperation and future opportunities, especially the EU-China Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology (FAB) Flagship initiative. Xin then moved on to present LinkTADs online resources, more specifically the open-access database of funding and partners developed by LinkTADs to facilitate the researchers to find international partners and funding opportunities.
Dr. Zhizhong Ma, from Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute, introduced the joint research and exchange activities supported by LinkTADs. Under WP7 of LinkTADs, the Chinese partners (CAHEC, SHVRI and HVRI) and European partners (RVC, CIRAD and SVA) implemented a series of short-term academic visits and exchange programmes. International joint labs were established and joint research on JEV, ASFV and PRDC has been and is currently being conducted by the EU and Chinese partners.
Last but not least, Ana Mateus from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) gave an overview of the applied research and teaching opportunities between the EU and China to the audiences. The importance of the China Field Epidemiology Training Programme for Veterinarians (China FETPV) was particularly stressed.
The audience showed considerable interest and a Q&A session quickly started.
LinkTADs EuFMD course (FAO)
An online training course was organised by EuFMD on FMD Emergency Preparation over a period of 4 weeks, starting on 21 September 2016. A total of 46 individuals registered from FAO offices as well as various Chinese health and research institutes.
EuFMD, one of FAO’s oldest Commissions, was established in 1954 to coordinate foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) control within Europe at a time when the disease was ravaging the continent. The course was planned in coordination with the LinkTADs project, and as such a majority of the discussions which accompanied the tutorials centred on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of FMD in China with special focus on the Chinese livestock industry.
The course was designed for veterinarians or those involved in the livestock industry who would be involved in diagnosing and investigating an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Though it was studied entirely online, the numerous weekly discussions remained active and provided an in-person aspect to the training. The course, which took approximately 10 hours to complete, covered the following topics:
FMD aetiology and pathogenesis
Clinical diagnosis, lesion ageing
FMD epidemiology, outbreak investigation
The training opened with a live interactive webinar, where trainees met their trainers and were introduced to the course and to foot-and-mouth disease. Trainees then studied the four interactive online modules, which included numerous photographs, videos and self-test questions. During the course, EuFMD expert trainers were available through a discussion forum to answer questions from the trainees, and to lead interactive discussions.
Towards the end of the course there was a second live interactive webinar to discuss interesting topics raised during the training in more detail. At the end of the course all trainees had to complete a comprehensive assessment. Successful trainees will be given a certificate, and records of completion are to be sent.
In order to improve knowledge on the functionality of the FAO’s Global Animal Disease Information (EMPRES-i) system, a webinar entitled “EMPRES-i – Introduction and Application” was held on 2 September 2016. Keeping in line with LinkTADs’ primary audience, the webinar attempted to highlight how the system could best benefit Chinese users. Delivered by experts from the FAO AGAH/GLEWS team, it was attended by 21 participants, the majority of which joined from China.
The presentation was the 7th of a series of webinars on animal health organized under the framework of LinkTADs.
FAO’s Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i) is a FAO web-based application released in 2009 that has been designed to support veterinary services by facilitating regional and global animal disease information. Timely and reliable disease information enhances early warning and response to transboundary and high impact animal diseases, including emergent zoonoses. Further, information sharing also supports prevention, improved management and progressive approaches to the control of these diseases. EMPRES-i provides updated information on global animal disease
distribution and current threats at national, regional and global level. It also provides access to publications, manuals and other resources, such as contact details of chief veterinary officers and laboratories (national and reference laboratories).
Users can access various functions including mapping and graphing tools and search and analysis tools for new or historic outbreaks. An important facet of EMPRES-i is that it is open to the public. This platform is designed for those interested in timely, global, regional and national animal disease information and analysis.
The webinar agenda included the following sections and lasted for approximately 1 hour.
Background on the EMPRES-i platform
Description of layout and practical use examples in China
The webinar was conducted in English with bilingual (English/Chinese) slides. It was well received with all of those responding rating both the topic and content to be useful. A pdf copy of the presentation can be downloaded here, and a full recording of the presentation including the question period can be downloaded from here.
Synergies between LinkTADs project and the Field Epidemiology Training Programme for Veterinarians (FETPV) – 7 June - Dr. Flavie Goutard, CIRAD & Dr. Marisa Peyre, CIRAD
As part of the WP3 of the LinkTADs project, we are really enjoying the interaction with the China FETPV programme. CIRAD, in collaboration with FAO ECTAD China, CAHEC and RVC, has been involved from the very beginning, in the development of this training programme aiming at achieving sustainable development of veterinary epidemiology in China. Since 2010, we have witnessed the emergence of a new generation of Chinese epidemiologists willing to promote good practices in epidemiology and to become future trainers in this discipline.
It was a great pleasure to deliver a 3 days training workshop about evaluation of disease surveillance for the 3rd cohort of FETPV programme under the LinkTADs project. With the emergence of new zoonotic diseases, the capacities of surveillance systems to accurately characterise animal diseases are of public health importance. Timely and relevant
evaluations of these systems are critical in order to improve their performance, their cost-effectiveness and to allow for more objective decision-making and acceptance by stakeholders. During the workshop, technical presentations were combined with practical cases to be discussed in groups.
Trainees actively participated in the role-playing activities which were very new for them. We asked them to play the roles of field evaluators or pig farmers/hunters involved in Classical Swine Fever surveillance network. The game helped them to gain insight into their own attitudes and behaviours and those of others when using participatory tools for evaluation.
Participants were taught as well how to use the EVATool, developed under the project RiskSur (http://www.fp7-risksur.eu). This tool and approach were as well discussed with CAHEC for future collaboration in the field of surveillance evaluation in China.
OTHER PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES
The STAR-IDAZ International Research Consortium (IRC) on Animal Health
Animal diseases can cause serious social, economic and environmental damage, impact on animal welfare and in some cases directly threaten human health. These diseases ignore borders. Livestock provides one third of human protein intake so working together to develop new control methods for the disease problems that are common to countries around the world is essential to protect food security and the livestock industries. Twenty partners from thirteen countries have so far committed to jointly invest around EUR 2 billion in the next five years through a new international research consortium on animal health.
An exciting initiative to coordinate animal health research globally was launched with talks from Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Monique Eloit, Director General, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This new initiative, which builds on the success of the EU-funded STAR-IDAZ Project (Global Strategic Alliances for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses), aims to deliver measurable advances in the control of animal diseases through the alignment of both public and privately funded animal health research programmes around the world.
The Consortium includes research funders and programme owners from Europe, Asia, Australasia, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East as well as international organisations and the representation of veterinary pharmaceutical companies. Together, they have committed a total budget in the region of EUR 2 billion to invest over a five year period to 2021. The partners have agreed to coordinate their research programmes to address agreed research needs, share results and together deliver new and improved animal health strategies for at least 30 priority diseases, infections or issues, including candidate vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other animal health products, procedures and/or key scientific information and tools to support risk analysis and disease control.
To achieve these goals Working Groups consisting of researchers will be established for each of the priority topics. Guided by a Scientific Committee, these groups will perform research gap analyses. The Scientific Committee, consisting of independent experts, will present the gap analyses to the IRC partners and advise them on how their programmes might be aligned.
A Scientific Secretariat (SIRCAH) has been established with funding for five years from the European Commission under H2020 to provide the Working Groups with literature reviews and support them in their gap analyses, support the Scientific Committee and Executive Committee logistically and facilitate information exchange within and between all three levels.
IRC Partners to date include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and United States as well as Zoetis and Observers in the European Manufacturers of Veterinary Diagnostics (EMVD) and HealthforAnimals.
The priority topics identified for initial collaboration include:
Immunology/vaccinology (tools and technologies)
Diagnostics (tools and technologies)
Innovative anti-infective approaches, including alternatives to anti-microbial agents
Foot and Mouth Disease
African Swine Fever
One Health (including food-borne pathogens and AMR)
Animal genetics/genomics for animal health
Porcine Respiratory Disease Complex
For further information visit http://www.star-idaz.net or contact the STAR-IDAZ Project Manager, Luke Dalton (Luke.Dalton@Defra.gsi.gov.uk).
News from DRAGON-STAR - SPI to organise a Business tour to Shenzhen, China Participation in the China High-Tech Forum and Brokerage Event
Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação (SPI)is going to organise a business tour to Shenzhen, China during the China Hi-Tech Fair 2016 in Shenzhen, China on 16th–21st, November 2016 to support technological and research collaboration betweenChinese and European organisations (ICT and green technologies sector).
The 5-day programme will include participation in the China High-Tech Forum, workshop on EU-China cooperation on ICT and green technologies, B2B meetings, visit to the Hi-Tech fair and visits to local leading companies in Shenzhen.
The business tour is within Dragon-STAR Plus (www.dragon-star.eu), a Horizon 2020 project aiming to facilitate policy dialogue and bilateral collaboration between EU and China. The Dragon-STAR Plus funding will provide travel subsidy to
European organisations seeking co-operation with Chinese organisations.It is expected that a minimum of 10 European organisations will benefit from this scheme.
China Hi-Tech Fair 2016 (CHTF, www.chtf.com) is the largest and the most influential scientific and technological fair in china. It has played an important role in commercialization, industrialization and internationalization of high-tech achievements as well as promotion of economic and technological cooperation between China and other countries.Being part of CHTF, the China High-tech Forum has won extraordinary reputation by its high-profile speakers since 1999.