Africa: WHO Director-General’s Opening Remarks At the Member State Information Session On WHO Biohub – 15 April 2021

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, and thank you all for joining us for today’s briefing on this very exciting initiative.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us many lessons.

One of them is that there is an urgent need for a globally agreed system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples, to facilitate the rapid development of medical countermeasures as global public goods.

Whether it is for SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, or for any future pathogen with epidemic or pandemic potential, the rapid sharing of biological material is an essential starting point for an effective response.

But at the moment, weak surveillance networks around the world pose a real threat to the timely detection and characterization of a novel pathogen, and to sharing with other countries.

At the World Health Assembly in November I announced the creation of a new repository for specimens at a secure facility in Switzerland, which we are calling the BioHub.

This is in line with WHO’s mandate to develop mechanisms to facilitate the equitable allocation of life-saving interventions, based on public health needs.

The WHO BioHub System would offer a trusted, transparent mechanism that would facilitate the processing, characterization, amplification and sharing of samples with Member States and partners.

I stress that this is a voluntary mechanism. It does not replace or compete with existing systems, but offers an additional opportunity to move faster than viruses and give us the safety net that we may be lacking.