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Canada hosts COVID-19 international symposium

September 2020

Canada hosts COVID-19 international symposium

COVID-19 is a serious disease affecting people across the globe. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is actively collaborating with international partners to fight this global pandemic.

The CFIA, secretariat and co-chair of the international Biosafety Level 4 Zoonotic Laboratory Network (BSL4ZNet), recently hosted a six-week international virtual symposium focused on COVID-19 emerging science to connect experts from around the world that have the skills and safety measures in place to work with the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases.

With more than 1,000 registrants at the symposium, Canadian and international scientific experts from academia, government and the private sector, shared scientific knowledge about COVID-19, each contributing towards the common goal of understanding this evolving pandemic. Discussions took place on epidemiology, animal studies, diagnostic and prognostic innovative methods, vaccines and therapeutics.

Canada sets direction for infectious disease research

The Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg was the first facility in the world to combine labs for human and animal disease research, at the highest level of biocontainment (BSL4), under one roof.

A containment level 4 laboratory has the ability to work safely with the most serious zoonotic viruses. It allows scientists to handle highly dangerous and deadly pathogens. This facility co-houses the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory and the CFIA's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease.

The two laboratories work together under a ”one health” approach to combat diseases such as COVID-19. The "one health” concept is based on the interdependencies between human and animal health, and the environment they share. It is a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach focused on developing research, programs and policies in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve optimal health outcomes.

About the Biosafety Level 4 Zoonotic Laboratory Network

The BSL4ZNet is a global laboratory network of 17 government organizations across Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Each organization has a national-level responsibility to protect animal and human health and enhance scientific capacity in its high containment laboratories.

The work performed in BSL4 labs allows scientists to analyze and better understand serious diseases like COVID-19.

BSL4ZNet's mission is to foster collaboration and information sharing among global partners to leverage capacity and expertise, promote preparedness, and strengthen research, training and diagnostic capabilities for international response to deadly pathogens. As the brainchild of the CFIA's Chief Science Operating Officer, Dr. Primal Silva, the BSL4ZNet regularly hosts quarterly scientific symposia.

"Collaboration amongst the science community leveraging the expertise and capabilities of the BSL4Z Network is crucial to better understanding and responding to global disease threats such as COVID-19. The BSL4Z Network is uniquely placed to respond to zoonotic disease threats that are continuously evolving," says Dr. Silva.

Since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the BSL4ZNet established a rapid response to enhance scientific capacity between high containment laboratories.

The creation of the BSL4ZNet and the recent COVID-19 symposium are shining examples of federal collaboration, led by the CFIA and supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Funding is provided by the Canadian Safety and Security Program within Defense Research and Development Canada.

Learn more about the vital work of CFIA scientists

Get information on the latest scientific developments in COVID-19 research.

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