The World Health Organization (WHO) has whittled down a list of more than 700 applicants to 26 proposed members to act as expert advisors on its new Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO).
These experts will advise WHO as it develops a global framework for defining and guiding studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, such as recently seen in the form of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Given the broad range of fields such pathogens can affect, experts were pulled from all corners of the earth and from fields as diverse as epidemiology, molecular biology, public health and animal health.
“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said. “Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential, and requires a broad range of expertise. We are very pleased with the caliber of experts selected for SAGO from around the world, and look forward to working with them to make the world safer.”
These new members are not official yet, though: they will undergo a two-week public consultation period during which WHO will accumulate feedback on its choices. After choices are finalized, SAGO’s first meeting will be arranged.
At that point, the body will advise on the framework of WHO studies, advise how to prioritize those studies and field investigations, and provide additional support as requested.