Public Health Institute in Japan Plans Network with Asian Partners; Data to Be Shared With India, Taiwan and Vietnam

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Envisaged network to share infectious disease data in Asia

In an effort to promptly share information on infectious diseases in Asia, a team within the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, or NIID, plans to build a network with public research institutions in other countries and regions.

In light of lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, when a lack of information posed a big challenge, the NIID aims to enhance its collaboration with institutions with which it has previously conducted joint studies in India, Vietnam and Taiwan. It aims to share information on infectious diseases and analytical information on viruses.

With the establishment of the network, the NIID aims to boost global cooperation in preparation for the next pandemic.

Along with the NIID, India’s National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, and the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control will play central roles in the network, according to the plan.

During the coronavirus pandemic, infections spread across national boundaries while countries were unable to adequately gather information on the virus’s characteristics, resulting in delays to take responses.

This prompted the NIID to conclude that it is necessary to build a wide-area network.

The NIID is expected to play a leading role in the network. Preparations started in fiscal 2023, and the network will be launched as early as fiscal 2026.

For the time being, the NIID will investigate incidences of infectious diseases in cooperation with the three other institutions and accumulate data on pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. It will also make efforts to develop testing methods and improve diagnosis technologies.

Institutions that are anticipated to participate in the network cover more than 10 countries in Southeast Asian and South Asian regions.

The NIID is considering establishing a system to respond to emergencies, under which participating institutions will share genome information on pathogens and samples isolated from patients, in preparation for a scenario that pathogens reach Japan in the event of an outbreak.

In light of a shortage of researchers, the institute also aims to foster more of them. It also will share information with China and South Korea.

A similar framework already exists outside of Asia. The Institut Pasteur of France has established a network of institutions from more than 20 nations in Europe, Africa and elsewhere. In cooperation with such a framework, the NIID is eyeing to establish a global collaborative system in the future.

The NIID team will receive financial assistance of up to about ¥285 million from the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development during the three-year preparation period from fiscal 2023 to 2025.

“From the viewpoint of international contribution, it’s important to grasp the actual condition of infectious diseases in Asia and control their spread,” said Tetsuro Matano, deputy head of the NIID and the team’s leader. “Japan will play a central role and aim to expand the network.”