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Switzerland’s Spiez Laboratory at the heart of WHO’s BioHub system

Life sciences

1 June 2021

The Spiez Laboratory will be the first facility to be part of the WHO’s BioHub system, an infrastructure that will facilitate the timely sharing of viruses and other pathogens between laboratories and partners worldwide.

Following a Memorandum of Understanding for the launch of the BioHub system between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Swiss Confederation, the Spiez Laboratory was selected to become the first facility to serve the project.

Based in Spiez in the canton of Bern, this facility will serve as a center for the safe collection, sequencing, storage and preparation of biological materials for distribution to other laboratories, to serve as a basis for risk assessments and to support global preparedness against these pathogens.

“It is essential to maintain a close international collaboration to ensure the timely sharing of epidemiological and clinical data as well as biological materials. Switzerland supports the first phase of the WHO’s BioHub initiative by providing the necessary infrastructure of a Swiss biosafety laboratory in Spiez”, explains Federal Councillor Alain Berset.

A timely sharing of information to help the global scientific community

Currently, most exchanges of pathogens are done on a bilateral basis between countries and on an ad hoc basis, which can be time consuming and puts some countries at a disadvantage.

The BioHub initiative will allow Member States to share biological materials with and through the BioHub system under pre-agreed conditions, including biosafety and biosecurity and any other applicable regulations.

This approach will ensure that response activities are carried out in a timely and predictable manner, including assisting the global scientific community in developing response tools such as diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

The WHO is currently conducting a pilot phase using Sars-Cov-2 and its variants to test the feasibility and operational modalities of sharing these materials through the BioHub system facilities. Once the results of the trial period are known, the BioHub system will expand beyond Sars-Cov-2 and its variants to include other pathogens.