I am delighted to be the new Chair of ISARIC and “thank-you” to the many members who have sent messages of support and encouragement. I would like to start my tenure by expressing gratitude on behalf of ISARIC to the outgoing Chair, Abdullah Brooks, who deserves immense credit for steering ISARIC through the two turbulent years of Ebola and Zika. Thank you Abdullah for your service to ISARIC and the wider scientific community.
ISARIC is a clear and distinct idea. It is a grass-roots, global consortium of clinical research networks who are committed to working together to conduct world-class research on emerging infections to generate new knowledge to save lives. It exists because we all recognise the need for a rapid, coordinated and high quality clinical research response to epidemics. And we know that to achieve this requires a global ‘network of networks’ who are ready to work together in a spirit of cooperation and support.
ISARIC has a come a long way since the idea first crystallised in 2011. It now includes over 50 networks with representatives in 110 countries who are actively responding to regional and global health challenges; sharing ideas, tools, and knowledge. In partnership with WHO, the ISARIC Coordinating Centre has played a central role in connecting and opening channels for dialogue between researchers and public health responders in times of crises like Ebola and Zika. ISARIC has also sparked and supported powerful new regional clinical research networks, such as the PREPARE network in Europe, and initiatives in Australia and Latin America.
Although the post-Ebola ‘global health security’ landscape is somewhat different from the landscape of 2011, the need for ISARIC is as strong as ever. WHO has created a new Health Emergencies Programme, the UN has appointed a Global Health Crises Task Force, and many initiatives to improve the research and development response to pandemic threats are underway. These initiatives are welcomed but are largely top-down. ISARIC is a grass-roots consortium of clinician researchers who are the first to see patients with emerging infections and who are best placed to generate the evidence needed to guide the public health and patient care response, and to advance fundamental understanding. Patients are at the heart of every outbreak and ISARIC members are at their side.
The on-going challenge of making the idea of ISARIC a reality does however need to consider this new landscape. I am therefore very keen to hear how you feel ISARIC can support your ambitions and what the ISARIC Coordinating Centre, Executive, and Membership can concretely deliver to support effective delivery of patient-centred research at all levels. In this spirit I intend to start a (short) conversation with networks as to what they want from ISARIC and how ISARIC needs to evolve.
In my view, another priority is to increase the representation and engagement of low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in ISARIC. I have a strong personal interest in supporting LMICs to develop their own research and preparedness capability, and this must be a core ambition of ISARIC. ISARIC should be leading the way in giving a voice to researchers and networks in LMICs.
It is both a great honour and a great responsibility to have been elected the next Chair of ISARIC. I am immensely excited by the prospect of working with you all over the next two years to deliver the vision of ISARIC.
(This message was first published in ISARIC's News Round-up, Issue 43, available here: http://eepurl.com/b8aMuj)