Need for sustainable biobanking networks for COVID-19 and other diseases of epidemic potential

Outbreaks of infectious diseases are occurring with increasing frequency and unpredictability. The rapid development and deployment of diagnostics that can accurately and quickly identify pathogens as part of epidemic preparedness is needed now for the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO has developed a global research and innovation forum to facilitate, accelerate, and deepen research collaboration among countries and funders. Great progress has been made in the past decade, but access to specimens remains a major barrier for the development and evaluation of needed quality diagnostics.

We present a sustainable model for a global network of country-owned biobanks with standardised methods for collection, characterisation, and archiving of specimens and pathogens to facilitate and accelerate diagnostics development and evaluation for COVID-19 and other diseases of epidemic potential. The biobanking network should be run on the guiding principles of transparency, equitable access, ethics, and respect for national laws that support country ownership and sustainability. Adapting the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits, sharing of specimens from national biobanks can be rewarded through mechanisms such as equitable access to diagnostics at negotiated prices. Such networks should be prepared for any pathogen of epidemic potential.

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