About once every two months, a newsletter is sent out from PDPC, containing all the latest updates on pandemic and disaster news and research
Read the second PDPC newsletter below.
PDPC Webinar: Learning from a crisis | 20 June 2023 – 2.00 PM
The corona pandemic was a health crisis of unprecedented proportions. The impact on health care and the great uncertainty presented by a new virtually unknown disease called for swift, sweeping action based on incomplete and/or uncertain information.
It is not so much if, but rather when another pandemic will emerge. Given the enormous impact on our society, it is necessary to learn from this crisis now in order to provide better scientific advice in the future.
Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2023
Time: 02.00 PM
Read more about the rapport and white paper
First PDPC Publication!
Frontrunner Project: Predicting, Measuring and Quantifying Airborne Virus Transmission
Hemagglutinin stability as a key determinant of influenza A virus transmission via air
Ilona I Tosheva, Kain S Saygan, Suzanne MA Mijnhardt, Charles J Russell, Pieter LA Fraaij, Sander Herfst
To cause pandemics, zoonotic respiratory viruses need to adapt to replication in and spread between humans, either via (indirect or direct) contact or through the air via droplets and aerosols. To render influenza A viruses transmissible via air, three phenotypic viral properties must change, of which receptor-binding specificity and polymerase activity have been well studied. However, the third adaptive property, hemagglutinin (HA) acid stability, is less understood. Recent studies show that there may be a correlation between HA acid stability and virus survival in the air, suggesting that a premature conformational change of HA, triggered by low pH in the airways or droplets, may render viruses noninfectious before they can reach a new host. We here summarize available data from (animal) studies on the impact of HA acid stability on airborne transmission and hypothesize that the transmissibility of other respiratory viruses may also be impacted by an acidic environment in the airways.
Roundtable Discussion May 17
Pandemic preparedness in international perspective
On May 17, Prof. Thijs Kuiken, Prof. Fouchier and Dr. Anja Schreijer participated in a Roundtable Discussion on Pandemic Preparedness in International Perspective in the House of Representatives. All three participants had submitted a position paper in preparation for the members of this discussion.
Presentation from Pearl Dykstra at the Erasmus School of Economics
On Monday 8th of May 2023, Social Sciences Lead Pearl Dykstra gave a presentation at the Erasmus School of Economics. She provided information on the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center and addressed the question of how economists might contribute to and collaborate with the Center. 35 (health) economists from Smarter Choices for Better Health and EsCHER participated in person and online. The presentation was received with great interest, and gave rise to a lively Q&A session. Discussions focused on incentives underlying the use of surveillance systems, the measurement of costs and benefits of preventing pandemics and disasters, shifts in public preferences regarding vaccination or testing, and crises in low and middle-income countries.
PDPC represented at World Congress on Public Health
From May 2-6 the World Congress on Public Health (WCPH) took place in Rome, Italy. The theme of the Congress was ‘A World in Turmoil: Opportunities to Focus on the Public’s Health’, focusing on promoting sustainable health equity and taking an interdisciplinary approach to tackle global public health challenges. PDPC colleagues Nora Bünemann, Valérie Eijrond and Medical Director Anja Schreijer attended the event organised by the World Federation of Public Health Associations.
‘The one-size-fits-all policy and practice approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic did not reach certain population subgroups. There is a necessity for targeted public health interventions based on their beliefs and needs’, said Valérie Eijrond.
Nora Bünemann called for collaboration: ‘Translating behavioural insights into action remains a challenge calling for an interdisciplinary approach.’
Global Health Meeting: PDPC masterclass at Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport
On Thursday April 20, as part of the Dutch Global Health Strategy, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) invited the PDPC to deliver a Masterclass on the relationship between climate and health. During this interactive workshop, attended by over 40 people from various ministries, Anja Schreijer (medical director PDPC) and Jeannette de Boer (head education PDPC) discussed the effects of climate change on infectious diseases and the associated risks.
Themes that were also addressed include the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and interdepartmental approach for topics such as pandemic preparedness, climate change, and health.
Kickoff PDPC Frontrunner 5: International Network Surveillance for Pandemic EmergenCe
PDPC Frontrunner 5 project is on a mission to set up a national surveillance network for pandemics, which will focus on transport hubs. The team celebrated the kickoff of the ‘International Network Surveillance for Pandemic EmergenCe’ project on April 19th on the convergence square with presentations from colleagues. “It was good to see everyone come together.”
One of the pillars of preparedness is a well-functioning early warning system. As most emerging diseases come from animal reservoirs, early warning focusing on detection of changes in the ecology of diseases in wildlife or livestock could potentially prevent outbreaks. In this Frontrunner project on integrated early warning surveillance tools and methods, 3 PhD students will work with a large multidisciplinary team of senior researchers.
The Healthy City Conference
The Healthy City Conference, organised on Tuesday April 18 by Convergence Health & Technology and the research consortium SPRING of the Resilient Delta Initiative, took place at the Sparta Stadium in Rotterdam. The Healthy City Conference brought together groups (scientists, policymakers and societal partners) that are thinking about the future of Rotterdam as a healthy city. Different stakeholders presented their projects and research around health inequalities and working with communities on transitions regarding health. On behalf of the PDPC, Valérie Eijrond and Nora Bünemann presented the Underserved Groups project. During an interactive discussion with their audience, they discussed different health barriers as well as drivers underserved population groups face and how their needs can be addressed.
30th Infectious Diseases
Transmission Day: March 28, 2023
Nora Bünemann and Valérie Eijrond of the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center participated in the 30th Infectious Diseases Transmission Day. The theme of this day was “Learning by Doing: ‘Innovation in Infectious Disease Control’. During the poster session, Nora and Valerie presented the Underserved Groups project of the PDPC. The objective of this project is to conduct research with underserved groups to understand barriers and drivers to vaccination, testing adherence to other COVID-19 prevention measures. These insights will be used to inform the development of targeted interventions for underserved groups in the Netherlands.
For an overview of the outcomes of the first step in this project, check out the poster here.
Improving Europe preparedness and readiness to pandemics
The DURABLE project better prepares Europe for the next pandemic. The new consortium includes virological and epidemiological research laboratories and will receive 25 million euros from the EU. Head of Virology at Erasmus MC and PDPC initiator Marion Koopmans is co-coordinator: ‘The next pandemic is possibly at our doorstep.’
The corona crisis is barely over, and the next pandemic threat is already knocking at the door. The world is currently dealing with the largest recorded avian influenza outbreak ever. ‘The spread amongst birds is unprecedented. Before 2020 we primarily focused on Asia regarding the avian flu; now, the threat of this highly pathogenic virus has changed dramatically. The virus has even spilt over to mammals a few times, such as at a mink farm in Spain, which makes a spillover to humans not unthinkable. In addition, a yet unknown pathogen could also cause the next pandemic’, Koopmans said.
Meeting KNAW – The threat of bird flu
On the 12th of April The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) organized a Symposium about the Threat of Bird Flu. Prof. Marion Koopmans was invited to moderate this session, prof. Ron Fouchier presented. The H5N1 bird flu virus has made the leap from birds and poultry to various mammals and has also spread to other parts of the world. What are the latest developments regarding bird flu? What options are there to guarantee the health of animals and people, and what are the associated risks?
Watch the symposium (Dutch)
Being ready for the next influenza pandemic?
Prof. Thijs Kuiken, prof. Ron A M Fouchier, prof. Marion P G Koopmans
Since 2021, an unprecedented shift occurred in the ecology of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of the H5 subtype. The global spread of H5 HPAI is cause for concern, given the high mortality in wild birds and poultry, but also because of numerous reported cases in mammals, including some in humans. Because past influenza pandemics originated from animal reservoirs, we argue that it is crucial to step up actions both to prevent H5 HPAI from becoming a future pandemic and, if that fails, to prepare for the consequences.
KWR publication on monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in sewage garners much interest
This year, no fewer than three KWR researchers will receive the Willem Koerselman Prize: Gertjan Medema, Frederic Béen and Leo Heijnen. The prize is an award for the highest number of citations to a scientific publication in the past year. Frederic Béen accepted the award partly on behalf of his colleagues, which the researchers received for the article “Implementation of environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 virus to support public health decisions: Opportunities and challenges.” The counter for the 2022 citation count stands at 128. “I am proud and especially grateful that I was able to contribute to the further development of wastewater analysis to support public health with this article,” Béen said.
In the article, published in journal Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, Béen and his co-authors describe how sewage can be used to detect infectious diseases transmitted through feces and urine. Sewage as a source of information about the health of citizens, and thus as a “mirror of society. This method was proposed in the article as a tool to map the extent of COVID-19 in cities and as an early warning of the (re)emergence of SARS-CoV-2. A study that has had a particularly significant impact at the time of the global corona pandemic.
Read more (Dutch)
Countries increasingly influence the weather. But to whom do the clouds belong?
Generating rain, dissolving fog or suppressing a hailstorm. Increasingly, countries are tinkering with the weather. But who legally owns a cloud?
For a while it looked like Elon Musk would grit his teeth over water. The newest Tesla factory, strategically planned in northern Mexico to take advantage of both low-wage and U.S. climate subsidies, met with objections from President López Obrador. “If there is no water, there will be no permit,” the president said in February. It was not infrastructure, available labor or the tax system that determined the business climate here, but something as basic as water.
“Seeding clouds to systematically generate more rain is a rearguard action,” says Pier Siebesma, professor of clouds and precipitation at TU Delft and a researcher at KNMI. “The demonstrated precipitation increase is currently at most only about 10 percent. Many countries say they are hugely successful, but that is difficult to prove. On the other hand, Israel has stopped after decades of experimentation because the yield does not outweigh the cost.”
Read more (Dutch)
Pearl Dykstra about the new SCP Repport
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Social en Cultureel Planbureau, SCP), which conducts research into the social aspects of all areas of government policy, published a report on “Social and Cultural Developments 2023” on 14 April 2023. In the Nieuwsuur broadcasting from 13 April, Pearl Dykstra, Professor of Empirical Sociology and PDPC Social Sciences Lead praised the SCP for its research and longitudinal studies, and their role in tracking and analysing social changes in Dutch society over a long period of time. “After the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic SCP published a rapport, stating that younger people instead of older people are struggling during the pandemic, contrary to what was predicted. Valuable information” Pearl Dykstra.
Watch (Dutch – 27.15 min)
Want to know more about the research of prof. dr. Pearl Dykstra within the PDPC: Frontrunner project: Towards social and urban resilience
Science on offer
Part of the distrust of science stems from misconceptions about what science actually is. It is therefore important to explain science to a wide audience, including all its snags. Maarten! asked scientists Vincent Crone, Erik van Sebille and Marion Koopmans how best to do that. ‘I understand that a compact story forces you to get to the heart of the matter, but simplifying can also go too far’
How do you explain to a large audience what science is and exactly how it works? The media, especially talk shows, usually tolerate this task poorly. ‘Science often does not allow itself to be packaged in nice, round stories, whereas that is what is often asked for in the media,’ summarizes media scientist Vincent Crone in an article from Maarten! Moreover, those round stories are served up to the public via television purely in one-way traffic.
Want to know more about the research of prof. dr. Marion Koopmans within the PDPC:
– Frontrunner project: Predicting, measuring and quantifying airborne virus transmission
– Frontrunner project: Integrated early-warning surveillance methods and tools
– Frontrunner project: Climate change and vectorborne virus outbreaks
Vaccinations, 120 years of Health Council
The National Vaccination Program has improved the health of many Dutch people in recent decades. The Health Council of the Netherlands (in Dutch: Gezondheidsraad) is an independent scientific advisory body whose legal task it is to advise the Dutch ministers and Parliament in the field of public health and health/healthcare research. The Council advises for instance on the trade-offs between vaccination effect and side effects, between benefits and costs. Three speakers have been invited for the ‘120 years of Health Council’ Podcast to talk about these vaccination recommendations. Bart-Jan Kullberg is President of the Health Council of the Netherlands and Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. Marion Koopmans is Professor of Virology and a member of the Vaccination Committee and Kees Groeneveld is scientific secretary at the council.
Listen to the podcast (Dutch)
The unstoppable bird flu
We are currently dealing with the largest outbreak of the bird flu virus in Europe ever. Millions of dead chickens, ducks and birds. The virus is transmissible to mammals and indicates that they can also infect each other. If the virus continues to mutate, humans may also be at risk. In recent years, hundreds of people have become infected, half of whom have died. Poultry farmers expect a lot from an upcoming vaccine that should prevent contamination. Agriculture minister Piet Adema calls the current outbreak ‘unsustainable’. What is our country doing to curb this situation? Zembla is investigating the fight against bird flu.
What drives virologist Marion Koopmans?
Podcast about the professional and personal motivations of virologist Marion Koopmans
Prof. Marion Koopmans, Scientific director of the PDPC and head of the Department of Viroscience at Erasmus MC was interviewed for a Podcast by Leaders of Life Sciences about what drives her – both in her career and her private life.
Listen to this podcast and learn more about the professional and personal motivations of virologist Marion Koopmans
Part 1 – https://www.leadersinlifesciences.nl/marion-koopmans-deel-1/
Part 2 – https://www.leadersinlifesciences.nl/marion-koopmans-deel-2/
Interview with Ron Fouchier: ‘If you stop this research, you surrender to the next pandemic’
The fierce debate that arose when Ron Fouchier announced the results of an experiment in which he created a potential pandemic flu still haunts him.
He feels “super honored”, Ron Fouchier (56). On Friday, March 10, the Rotterdam virologist received the prestigious M.W. Beijerinck Virology Award from the KNAW for his leading research into respiratory viruses. “To be on the same list as all those big names who have received the award is a great honor. The last time a Dutchman got it was 25 years ago – that was Ab Osterhaus.” Involuntarily he got a lump in his throat during the ceremony, he says after the ceremony.
Prof. Fouchier is one of the PI’s of Frontrunner Project Predicting, Measuring and Quantifying Airborne Virus Transmission. Read more about this project: Predicting, measuring and quantifying airborne virus transmission
“I have recently become part of the PDPC team as an infectious disease control physician for 3 days a week. While studying medicine in London, I became interested in global health because of my international background. With a few years as a hospital-based physician and a masters in epidemiology behind me, I was looking for a career where I could combine my passion for infectious diseases and public health. So in March 2020, I moved back to the Netherlands to train as an infectious disease physician (among others at GGD Amsterdam, GGD Flevoland, and in Curacao). I am also a PhD student on a study on the long-term effects of COVID-19, and hope to get my PhD this year. You will mainly meet me online, as my husband and I are moving to Bangkok this year. In my free time I do a lot of sports, and whenever I get the chance I like to go scuba diving or surfing.”
For almost 14 years I have been working at Erasmus MC, now I am glad that I’m part of the PDPC team! I am looking forward to learn everything about this department and colleagues.
I am married and have two lovely, beautiful daughters. My hobbies are crossfit, tennis and kickboxing. I like to organize fun things as dinners, Bdays, gatherings. And I also like travelling, exploring the world, although with kids we just travel to a camping! In the weekend, I love to go out for lunch/dinner with family or friends. As long as I don’t have to cook!
NEW PDPC PhD’s
I am a social and philosophical anthropologist, interested in epistemic and environmental (in)justices. I look at affective knowledge practices in the city, archaeology, science & technology, and policy & breakdown. How bodies ‘know’, and what they feel is worth keeping (and not) in times of climate catastrophe is of urgent concern.
I am currently affiliated with the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Center, an initiative from Erasmus University Medical Center, Delft University of Technology, and Erasmus University Rotterdam.
My project prepares a multi-sited living lab in my home borough of Rotterdam South in alignment with a multi-sited ethnography that knots local issues to translocal socio-politics. I combine volunteer work with my research on the ‘everyday politics’ of city denizens. Conceptually, I draw on various anthropological, philosophical and sociological sources to situationally analyse existing (trans)local and socio-technical infrastructures in the stigmatized territory of Rotterdam South.
Karin van Vuuren
I am pleased to introduce myself as a PhD candidate in the frontrunner titled “Pandemic Lessons for Flood Disaster Preparedness”. My research will be conducted under the supervision of the department of Health Care Governance, faculty ESHPM at Erasmus University Rotterdam, and will focus on the governance of healthcare systems in the context of flood disasters.
My background in health care management and research policy making will enable me to explore the governance dynamics between the healthcare, crisis management, and watermanagement domains. Specifically, I am interested in contributing to healthcare governance in rural areas during crises, given my roots and home in the province of Zeeland.
I am excited to be a part of the PDPC program, as it provides a diverse and multidisciplinary group that reflects the governance domains of my research. I am committed to contributing to this important area of study, and look forward to collaborating with my colleagues within the PDPC.
Putri Ayu Fajar
Hi! My name is Putri Ayu Fajar and I am a PhD student for the “International Network Surveillance for Pandemic EmergenCe via Transport hubs (INSPECT)”. When I first learnt about PDPC and INSPECT, it immediately enticed me as it is a highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary research environment – two things that I find most invigorating in doing science.
Previously in my Master’s, I worked around the topic of understanding the immunology of viral infections in different populations using innovative techniques such as next generation sequencing. Within the PDPC, I am specifically interested in exploring innovative ways to detect emerging viral strains early and assess the significance of these strains to public health – in other words, whether their phenotypes are greatly altered so that it could possibly start an outbreak, or even worse, pandemic.
My name is Kain Saygan and I started my PhD project in November 2022. I am studying the transmission of different viruses with a so-called pandemic potential, as well as if and how our immune system affects the replication competence of SARS-CoV-2. So far, little is known about the precise mechanism these viruses use to transmit, which is crucial knowledge for pandemic preparedness.
My goal is therefore to gain more insight in virus transmission to be better prepared for a next pandemic. During my master’s, I specialized in Virology and Immunology, and have done two theses in both fields, so this study seems cut out for me! I am looking forward to the collaboration with all (very) different projects within the PDPC.
Hi! My name is Suzanne, I am 25 years old and since November 2022 I am working on Frontrunner project 2 as a PhD student at the Erasmus MC. I’ll be focusing on factors affecting virus stability and infectivity during (airborne) transmission. After studying fungal and viral infections at Utrecht University and RIVM, I realized how interested I am in the topic and knew I wanted to continue researching it. I am excited to be part of the PDPC and look forward to contributing to a very relevant topic as well as collaborating with so many different researchers within the PDPC.
Hi, my name is Frank, a PhD student based in Utrecht at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS). I will be working in Frontrunner 2, focusing on the improvement of sampling techniques of airborne viruses. Since I have a biomedical background, I think this is exciting research that will hopefully contribute to something beautiful in the future. I am expecting to learn a lot from other people in the PDPC, and I hope that other people can learn from me too. This way we can build a great interdisciplinary platform that can have a great impact on society!
Maha Moustafa Habib Abdelraouf
Hi, I just embarked on a new journey as PhD candidate at TU Delft. I have a background in Architecture, Urbanism and Environmental Science. I am currently investigating which socio-economic groups are most exposed to extreme heat given their social and spatial characteristics. The frequency and intensity of heatwaves are increasing, thus worsening inequality. Learning about how the urban environment affects wellbeing of vulnerable groups will help assess society’s readiness and inform on preventative measures needed to support urban resilience. I look forward to working with researchers at PDPC, it seems like a great platform to a start of a fruitful multidisciplinary collaboration.
Date: Monday 30 October 2023
Time: 09.00 – 18.00
Registration will open soon!
First Small is Beautiful lecture at De Kleine Aarde, July 4th
At Place De Kleine Aarde, the first Small is Beautiful lecture will take place on Tuesday, July 4, starting at 1:30 pm. This marks the 50th anniversary of the still inspiring book of the same title, written in 1973 by E.F. Schumacher. He wrote then how the economy should serve us people and not the other way around.
The first Small is Beautiful lecture will be delivered by American commons activist David Bollier. Among other things, he will discuss the role that commons and collectives can play toward new economic systems. In the Netherlands, you see this movement gaining a foothold; specifically around the development of new food systems such as those envisioned by De Places.
After Bollier’s lecture, there will be presentations from Dutch commons practice around food, land and education. There will also be roundtable discussions, a preview of the establishment of a Schumacher-inspired center in the Netherlands, and plenty of room for networking.
Are you curious about or already convinced by the ideas of the commons and in for a dose of inspiring examples and new insights?
Date: Tuesday, July 4, 2023
Place: De Kleine Aarde 13 Het Klaverblad 5283 TV Boxtel
International Pandemic Sciences Conference 2023, 10-11 July, Oxford
The University of Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute is delighted to announce that registration is open for the International Pandemic Sciences Conference 2023 – Making the Exceptional Routine on 10 and 11 July 2023.
This inaugural conference is dedicated to the discovery, creation and equitable application of practical solutions to epidemic and pandemic threats worldwide.
Representatives from academia, industry, policy and civil society from across the world are warmly invited to join in Oxford, UK or online.
The conference will explore how the level of innovation, multidisciplinary and multisector partnership we saw during COVID-19 can happen day-in, day-out to protect us from another devastating pandemic.
The conference will feature four topic areas that will be explored in plenary and parallel sessions over two days:
- Real-world interventions: vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and clinical trials
- Pathogen biology and new threats
- Ethics, social science and policy
- Epidemiology, data and analytics
View the provisional conference programme
Are you going on vacation soon? Then One Health Pact desperately needs your help!
Help One Health PACT with the One Health Travel research by working with them to map mosquitoes, ticks and the diseases they can transmit.
The One Health Travel study, conducted by PhD Chiara de Bellegarde, investigates which and where mosquito and tick-borne viruses occur in Europe and the Dutch Caribbean.
Would you like to participate in scientific research? Or would you like to help Chiara? Sign up now!
Share your news, kick-offs, new PhD’s, publications and more via the PDPC newsletter via Maaike or Maud.