H2020 Consortium Annual Meeting - DEFEND, Ohrid, Northern Macedonia
by Jozef Polák
DEFEND (defend2020.eu) is an international partnership of academic, industry and governmental organisations aiming to control the epidemic situation of African swine fever (ASF) and bovine modular dermatitis (Lumpy Skin Disease Virus) in Europe and neighborhood countries. The outcome of the project is the design of innovative tools for diagnosis and vaccination together with the development of tools for early decision making for the responsible institutions. The project is led by two major institutions, the Pirbright Institute, UK and Sciensano, Belgium. The aim of the annual meeting was to present the results achieved in the previous period and to plan further activities, sharing knowledge, experiences to facilitate collaboration and details of experience in practice. The working programme was broke-down in sessions in which the scientific and research progress was presented by each working group followed by working groups to validate the achievability of the results in practical conditions. Prof. Radovan Kasarda attended the session as a member of the MAP (Multi-Actor Panel), which includes members from the WOAH (World Organization for Animal Health), the European Commission's decision-making officers and experts from related fields (including hunting associations). At its previous annual meeting, MAP recommended to the consortium members to increase the proportion of scientific research presentations that could inform the development of regulations and standards in the field of prevention and livestock health. Individual working groups focus on risk analysis, phylogenetic analysis of ASF and LSDV, the impact of conflict and migration on disease transmission, early identification, diagnosis, prevention, and management of diseases. Separate working groups are involved in vaccine development and optimization of vaccination strategies to protect animal food resources. The project is currently 3/4 of the way through the project and the results are promising in terms of scientific progress and possible solutions. In view of the current complex geopolitical situation, the main risks as well as practical solutions to prevent or slow down the spread of diseases in Europe have been identified. These include the need for cooperation between farmers, hunters, veterinarians, veterinary institutes, and government agencies in making early decisions for the effective management of diseases. The results obtained are not public due to intellectual property protection. So far, they are mainly available as case studies carried out in the conditions of the Balkans, the Baltic countries, Asia, or the EU as original scientific papers in per-reviewed scientific journals.