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Germany selected as site of WHO pandemic response hub

The World Health Organization (WHO) is locating a new center for responding to global pandemics in the German capital Berlin. Called the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, its main function will be to rapidly advise public health experts and policymakers around the globe when urgent decisions are needed in the case of a pandemic.

world map surrounded by hands

Public and private sector organizations, researchers, medical experts, and others will collaborate in using new tools, including those driven by artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze data and predict disease development. The German government is investing an initial EUR 84.5 million in the project.

This latest accord builds on an already close relationship between the WHO and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's main epidemiology and public health organization. The RKI is already the WHO's "collaborating center" for emerging infections and biological threats, for global outbreak alert and response, and for viral hepatitis and HIV. At the beginning of the month, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and RKI President Dr. Lothar Wieler, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deepen their partnership and set the framework for collaboration with the hub.

Chikwe Ihekweazu, the director general of Nigeria's Center for Disease Control, has been appointed to lead the new center. It will initially be based at the Charité – one of Europe’s largest teaching hospitals with a globally known epidemiology department. The Charité will provide infrastructure to promote and support the hub’s activities. The center will work closely with other scientific institutions in the world and Germany, such as the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) for Digital Engineering in Potsdam.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the opening ceremony. In a speech, she pointed out the advantages of locating the hub in Berlin, saying that “with the Charité, the RKI and the HPI nearby, we have an unbelievable amount of networked expertise.” At the same time, German health minister Jens Spahn said there will be no shortages of ideas in Berlin, which is known as a “start-up city.”

The siting of the WHO hub in Germany is evidence of the country’s prominent global position as a location for top-level research and innovation in all medical fields. The initiative HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY is where to learn more about how synergies between research, industry, and government contribute to making Germany a world healthcare leader.