GISRS laid foundation for protection through collaboration

The 70th anniversary of Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) is a reminder of the extraordinary work that scientists have already undertaken to protect humanity against pandemic threats, says the Pandemic Prevention Institute at the Rockefeller Foundation.

GISRS became a
vital resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. But influenza is where it all
started. In any given year, influenza is estimated to cause 3–5 million cases
of severe illness and about 290 000
to 650 000 deaths globally. Thanks to GISRS, we
know that our best defense against the ongoing threat of influenza pandemics
and non-influenza emergencies is cross-sector collaboration, monitoring circulating viruses to update annual vaccines
while keeping a close watch on the effectiveness of testing and treatment

Following in the footsteps of GISRS, in 2006, a global plan to share avian flu data
led to the GISAID Initiative, which focuses
on international exchange of all types of influenza virus data and the
collaborative publication of results. GISAID went on to become a vital partner
of GISRS in 2008, bringing
a global community of scientists together to accurately collect high quality
epidemiologic data, and also to track influenza viruses for seasonal protection
as well as pandemic preparedness.

With this
collaboration in place, GISRS was well-positioned to manage the multitude of
laboratory data created by the COVID-19 pandemic. On January 10 2020, GISAID shared
the first complete genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2. It soon became the world’s
most important resource for sharing genomic data on variants, enabling rapid
global tracking of the outbreak and empowering local and global knowledge to
support scientific and policy decision-making.

show that threats to humanity can only be successfully fought through global
cooperation and collaboration. Without global participation, new SARS-CoV-2
variants such as Delta and Omicron could have hit each country as potentially
new and unknown or uncharacterized outbreaks, with countries unaware and
unprepared to respond in a timely manner to save lives.

The Rockefeller
Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute (PPI) applauds the success of both GISRS and
GISAID. We look forward to working with both to widen
networks and broaden collaborations across disciplines to strengthen adaptable
systems that link surveillance data with clinical, environmental, and syndromic
data sets and enhance our collective ability to get ahead of future

Both GISRS and
GISAID are vital and future growth of global surveillance systems should
complement these foundational systems, not replace them. At the PPI, we do not
aim to build new collection methods but rather help connect existing and
disparate data (both traditional and non-traditional) to create a global
network of networks.

None of our work
would have been imaginable without the success that GISRS has built over the
past 70 years. Congratulations to GISRS. We look forward to continued growth
and expansion and intend to sing the praises in this anniversary year of the
scientists, laboratories, governments, WHO and other organizations so critical
to their success.

Public Release. More on this here.