Pandemic Threats

We are building on advances catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic to establish sustainable early-warning and response systems for known and emerging pathogens.

6 out of 10

R&D Blueprint pathogens have significant diagnostic gaps

Disease X

is the name given to an as-yet-unknown pathogen with epidemic potential

Diagnostic tests are critical for both pandemic preparedness and outbreak response.

COVID-19 led to more than 3 million deaths cost between US$8.1 and US$15.8 trillion globally. Better preparedness against future threats is essential.

Aurélia Vessière

Deputy Director, Pandemic Threats

Future outbreaks of infectious diseases may be inevitable, but we can stop them becoming pandemics by strengthening early-warning and response systems for known and emerging pathogens.

COVID-19 has shown our global vulnerability to pandemics and the vital role of testing as one of our first lines of defence against infectious diseases.

Although the threat of a global pandemic has always been present, global funding for pandemic preparedness prior to COVID-19 had been reactionary and not well sustained. Diagnostics have always been the cornerstone for early warning, response and containment, yet they remain chronically inappropriate for global needs. Significant diagnostic gaps remain for six of the ten WHO R&D Blueprint priority diseases, including an as-yet-unidentified disease X – the name given to a pathogen currently not known to cause human disease that could cause a serious international epidemic in the future.

However, COVID-19 has pushed pandemic preparedness up the policy agenda, giving global attention to the importance of diagnostics and testing data to drive public heath decision-making and control transmission, keeping people, communities and economies safe. COVID-19 has also shown us the importance of fit-for-purpose, integrated testing networks that extend from the community through to hospitals and laboratory services, which can enable people to get tested when and where they need it. It has demonstrated the importance of bolstering genomic sequencing capacity for rapid pathogen and variant identification – essential to quickly spot new variants that may evade diagnostic tests, treatments or vaccines, and enable fast development of new tools or modifications to existing ones.

We must break the cycle of “panic then forget” for testing and surveillance for outbreak-prone pathogens. Will we learn from COVID-19?

Daniel Bausch

Senior Advisor, Global Health Security

Our pandemic threats strategy is focused on expediting the development of diagnostic tools that can support acute outbreak management, and strengthening in-country capacity for outbreak detection and rapid response. We are also supporting the implementation of integrated surveillance systems for early warning and response.

Working with partners we will deliver:

  • New rapid diagnostic tests for outbreak diseases (Marburg, yellow fever)
  • Development of a point-of-care molecular testing platform (for Lassa fever)
  • Test evaluations for priority outbreak diseases
  • Strengthening of outbreak preparedness and response in West Africa
  • Optimization of diagnostic networks in Nigeria using diagnostic network optimization analysis
  • Community-based surveillance initiatives

100 Days Mission

The 100 Days Mission is a plan for the world to be able to respond to and extinguish the global threat of the next Disease X within 100 days of WHO declaring a major outbreak or pandemic.