ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases Scientific Days
The first edition of the ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases Scientific Days took place on March 15 and 16 in Paris. Over the two days, the national and international scientific communities shared results and discussed the state of research under the Agency’s increased scope: HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, STIs and tuberculosis, as well as emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, particularly SARS-CoV-2.
The numerous debates and presentations gave the Agency the opportunity to present its involvement in research funding and scientific coordination, at both national and global levels, to structure the preparation and response to current and future health crises.
The first session, ‘Towards a cure and the end of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis?’, was dedicated to one of the Agency’s priorities: translational research on the remission and cure of HIV and viral hepatitis. Presentations highlighted the challenges of researching new immunotherapies, and progress in identifying new therapeutic targets and strategies for the functional cure of hepatitis B.
In the second session, ‘Epidemic surveillance: research contributions’, Deborah Williamson (Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne) illustrated the crucial contribution of genomics in the response to emerging infectious diseases. The importance of data sharing and much-needed equity in the capacity to collect this genomic information for a global and concerted response to emergencies were highlighted. The ongoing EMERGEN and AFROSCREEN consortia projects as well as the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) surveys were presented as examples of activities contributing to the dynamic response to emergencies worldwide.
During the presentation by Xavier de Lamballerie (Aix-Marseille University, IRD, UVE), participants learnt that the mobilization of EMERGEN consortium stakeholders increased the number of genome sequences described from 3,000 in 2020 to 450,000 in 2021. In addition, 16 projects in various research areas (experimental activities and animal models, cohorts, modelling, wastewater analysis, etc.) were funded by the consortium to acquire new knowledge on the variants of SARS-CoV-2. In updates from AFROSCREEN, Dramane Kania (MURAZ Centre, Bobo-Dioulasso, National Institute of Public Health, Burkina Faso) explained that since January 2022 the laboratories supported by the consortium have all been operational in terms of PCR screening and that training in sequencing is ongoing in six countries.
The third session, ‘Global health, sexual health and prevention’, took stock of the inequalities revealed by epidemics and measures taken to implement an equitable and effective response, particularly through the deployment of community-based systems and actions for better public policies on prevention and care.
The second day was devoted to tuberculosis and emerging infectious diseases, including viral hemorrhagic fevers, arboviruses and SARS-CoV-2, with a focus on innovation and preparedness for future crises. The fourth session, ‘Emerging infectious diseases and tuberculosis’, emphasized that improved epidemiological surveillance, access to diagnostics, identification of therapeutic targets, and the development of innovative vaccine strategies are key drivers of the response to emerging diseases.
The final session, ‘Controlling the COVID-19 epidemic and preparation for future crises’, examined the place of antivirals in the fight against COVID-19, the role of modeling in public health decision-making and, more broadly, the importance of working for greater equality and transparency in access to scientific data.
The opening and closing speeches were given by Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education and Research and Innovation, and Olivier Véran, French Minister of Solidarity and Health. This event was attended by more than 500 people on-site and online, with nearly 40 guest speakers representing research organizations, institutions, associations, etc. The diversity of the speakers and the participants highlighted the central role of international partnerships in the ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases’s strategy for more concerted and effective preparation and response to future crises.