Final Report Summary - DISCONTOOLS (Development of the most effective tools to control infectious diseases in animals)
In the context of animal diseases reducing output by at least 20% according to the OIE, it is crucial to set priorities for research into new or improved tools for disease control and to ensure the most effec¬tive use of resources and research capacity. DISCONTOOLS is a project that provides a mechanism to target research funding and prioritise research and so contribute to the delivery of new and improved tools – diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals - to control priority diseases. It is a decision support tool which identifies specific components for prioritisation of diseases and allows a comparison between diseases. The model then allows the different components to be compared and also to determine where the most effective area for research funding might lie.
The gap analysis for the availability of effective control tools provides an evidence base to inform policy makers and funders on where the most effective allocation of resources can be made to develop new and improved tools for the control of the main diseases. This will depend on which areas, such as the impact on wider society, impact on public health, animal welfare or the impact on trade, are considered to be the most important.
Following the work of the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health (ETPGAH), 52 diseases were considered within the scope of DISCONTOOLS. Expert groups consisting of 5 to 10 experts were established for each disease. Where possible each group included experts with laboratory expertise, an epidemiologist, an industry representative, a diagnostics expert and an individual with economic/trade expertise
Each expert group finalised a “Disease and Product analysis” document (D&P) - a reference document providing key information for each disease to support the scoring for the prioritisation and control tools gap analysis models. The D&P includes 23 main sections with sub-headings covering a wide range of aspects such as description and characteristics of the disease, zoonotic potential, tools available, economic impact, etc. The expert groups were asked to reach a consensus on the final text which they then used as the basis for the scoring in the prioritisation and control tools gap analysis models.
In addition to collecting information about the diseases and the control tools an additional column was included in the D&P document. The column headed “Gaps identified” was designed to gather further information on the gaps in knowledge of each disease and products to combat it. This helps scoring in the gap analysis sheet by highlighting the most critical gaps.
The project also worked on identifying technological tools that may be used to improve the ability to control infectious animal diseases. Existing methodologies were reviewed and a methodology proposed for the animal health sector. Effective identification and technology transfer is essential if new tools for disease control are to be developed.
The outcome is a public searchable database that is being used by funders of research to set research priorities. This is a very significant contribution to the animal health research effort with the focus leading to the development of diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals more rapidly. This will protect animal health and welfare but also public health where zoonoses are concerned. In terms of sustainability, reducing the burden of animal diseases ensures greater productivity from the same or reduced inputs making agriculture more efficient and helping to secure the food supply chain.
Project Context and Objectives:
The concept of DISCONTOOLS arose from the work of the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health (ETPGAH) which was launched in December 2004. Since then the ETPGAH has developed a Vision, a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and an Action Plan (AP) to implement the recommendations made in the SRA.
Recent disease outbreaks have highlighted the necessity of not only producing new vaccines but also for improving existing vaccines and providing vaccines capable of differentiating vaccinated from infected animals. The use of vaccines and diagnostic tests are a key component as they have the potential to support control and eradication and to be highly cost effective. New and improved vaccines, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals are required for a wide range of major animal diseases. Effective tools for controlling animal diseases of major social and economic importance are vital not only for Europe but also for the rest of the world.
DISCONTOOLS provides a mechanism for focusing and prioritising research that ultimately delivers new and improved vaccines, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests. The project makes a major contribution to the objectives of the relevant FP7 call. There are three complimentary work strands backed up by the development of a comprehensive communication strategy.
The first strand provides a validated database and peer reviewed methodology in order to prioritise infectious animal diseases.
Gap analysis is the second strand and has been carried out to identify those areas where information and knowledge of the disease is deficient and where current tools are lacking, inadequate or could be improved. Information has been collected in a standard format for validation and entry into a specific disease database. A detailed analysis has been carried out for each of the priority diseases to identify gaps in key areas.
The third strand is to identify current and new technological tools that may be used to improve the ability to control infectious animal diseases. The work includes a review of existing arrangements by stakeholders and the development of a methodology to identify and evaluate new technology. Effective identification and technology transfer is essential if new tools for disease control are to be developed.
All these factors underline the need for a coordinated, transparent and multidisciplinary R&D effort from basic sciences through to the emerging technologies and onto product development, production, authorisation and distribution. There is an urgent need to boost research with effective funding so that new or improved veterinary medicines – diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals can be delivered.
It is important to develop, through public and private partnerships, an overview of current research and to identify gaps. Programmes can then be developed to fill these gaps whilst at the same time developing research collaboration and synergies to avoid duplication of research effort. Within the EU, the lack of a formal mechanism to identify research gaps increases the reliance placed on scientific communities, panels and workshops to assess these needs. Assessments are limited and need continuous updating. It is equally important to adopt a global approach to ensure that research is coordinated and rationalised to ensure maximum returns for the investment in research.
The interaction of the 5 synergistic work packages in the project has been essential for the successful delivery of the objectives. The scientific and technical objectives of the project are listed and described below:-
1. To establish and maintain effective management and coordination of the project involving all stakeholders (WP1).
2. To prioritise diseases (WP2)
3. To conduct a gap analysis of the priority diseases to identify those area where information and knowledge of the disease is deficient and where current tools are lacking, inadequate or could be improved. (WP3)
4. To identify and evaluate new technologies. (WP4)
5. To ensure the effective communication and dissemination of information from the project. (WP5)
WP 1 To establish and maintain effective management and coordination of the project involving all stakeholders
The nature of project placed a strong emphasis on stakeholder input and horizontal interactions with other groups involved in research, development and delivery of new tools. A major objective was to ensure alignment of all stakeholders and also with the Commission with respect to reporting, accounting and the organisation of meetings.
There are also important horizontal interactions with Member State research funders through the Collaborative Working Group on Animal Health and Welfare (CWG) of the Standing Committee on Agriculture Research (SCAR). Links and interaction have been developed with the Community Animal Health Policy (CAHP) and with the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVO) of the Member States who have a major interest in the development of tools for disease control. Many of the specific disease experts are based in the Community Reference Laboratories (CRL) and close liaison and contact with these groups was developed. There is also a close link to the ETPGAH which is continuing to develop the SRA and Action Plan. Close contact was also maintained with the international organizations including OIE, FAO, WHO, and ILRI. There has also been coordination with other European projects such as EMIDA ERA-Net, ANIHWA ERA-Net, MedVetNet, ICONZ, STAR-IDAZ and EPIZONE. The high level of expertise which already exists within Europe wide institutions dealing with infectious diseases of animals has been utilised where appropriate.
A second important objective was to develop a flexible but comprehensive management and advisory structure to take into account the needs of the different stakeholder groups. An effective governance structure was introduced which can take decisions quickly but which does not exclude any stakeholders. This WP was responsible for the day to day running of the project.
WP 2 To prioritise diseases
A specific priority setting process is important to provide clarity over priorities and to ensure successful outcomes from research funding. An important outcome is the appropriate targeting of research funds to the diseases in the defined priority areas. In the longer term outcomes will include better focused research into those areas where new tools and methods for control have a priority and improved public and private sector funding of research.
This objective was to develop and deliver a comprehensive, harmonised and validated methodology for the prioritisation of infectious animal diseases. This work has built on the work already carried out by the ETPGAH. An agreed methodology has been developed which can be used by research funders and policy makers throughout the world. The model enables new and emerging diseases to be evaluated in a systematic manner and compared to the priority of existing diseases. This enables funders to identify a mechanism by which to allocate resources and research capacity.
The model allows for the objective and transparent classification of disease using a risk-based animal disease prioritisation model. It is difficult to allocate diseases into a simple classification as the large number of variables made a prioritisation method difficult to develop. This work package established the criteria on which to base the prioritisation, defined the methodology and delivered an effective peer reviewed model for researchers and research funders.
A comprehensive publicly accessible database (www.discontools.eu) of information and a working model for prioritisation of animal diseases which is peer reviewed and accepted by funders has been developed.
Furthermore the output of the model assists in providing a basis for an EU wide disease classification that can serve a number of different purposes. Of particular importance is the close link to the CAHP and the ability to set priorities for eradication and prevention programmes and to align total public financial support with the degree of responsibility operators or governments have for disease prevention and control.
A regular review of diseases and their order in the prioritisation list will enable research funders and policy makers to determine whether priorities have changed and whether new or emerging diseases will necessitate the redeployment of resources.
WP 3 To conduct a gap analysis of the priority diseases to identify those area where information and knowledge of the disease is deficient and where current tools are lacking, inadequate or could be improved
The objective was to produce a detailed standardised gap analysis for the priority diseases. For each disease this identifies the gaps in knowledge, the current status of control tools and highlights the areas where research is required to overcome these gaps. This information will be used to target research and development activities.
A preliminary analysis carried out by the ETPGAH attempted to identify the overall gaps for a number of diseases but concluded that a more detailed analysis is required in order to identify the gaps which currently exist in the knowledge and understanding of each of these diseases. A standard methodology was developed involving the identification of the critical issues which need to be addressed to complete a gap analysis. This includes information about the disease and the existing control tools. Information was collected in a standard format for entry into a database for analysis. A detailed analysis was carried out for each of the priority diseases and a research requirements document produced for each disease.
A comprehensive analytical methodology was developed which allows the identification of gaps which currently exist in the knowledge and understanding of the priority diseases. A more detailed assessment of host-pathogen interaction, epidemiology, immunology and control tools for each priority disease was provided. The development and implementation of the methodology to identify gaps in key areas enables effective targeting of research funding to ensure the availability of new and improved tools for the control of these diseases.
The output from this work package is the delivery of a comprehensive peer reviewed and standardised analysis for each of the priority diseases with the availability of a database for each disease.
By using the gap analysis the research requirements for the development of new or improved targeted tools for each of the priority diseases have been identified. European, national, charity, industry and third country funders should target research programmes to fill the gaps and ensure maximum returns on relatively scarce resources.
The results are available to decision makers both in relation to policy and research funding. The production of a research requirement document for each of the priority diseases acts as guidance for funders as to the priorities for development. This is not just a list of topics proposed by the researchers but a prioritised list for the production of new diagnostics, vaccines or pharmaceuticals agreed by all the stakeholders.
WP 4 To identify and evaluate new technologies
The objective is to ensure new technologies are identified quickly and evaluated to assess their potential contribution to the development of more effective tools for the control of priority diseases. This may be achieved using literature reviews and establishing a panel of experts from different disease and speciality backgrounds. Routine analysis of published literature and conference proceedings would add value to the identification process. The techniques for identifying new technologies and applying them across a range of different diseases are still in their infancy. A holistic rather than a specific disease approach was developed.
Often developments occur in relation to only one specific disease with little consideration of their potential impact or application to a wider spectrum of other diseases. A process was developed in order to speed up and ensure that potential wider applications of innovative and new technology are identified and transferred to other groups. A method of identifying innovation was developed to assist in the transfer of knowledge from one field to a much wider range of diseases. For the future, these newly developed technologies need to be reviewed regularly to assess their potential and to ensure that they are being used to maximum benefit. By evaluating the relative value of the individual technologies and their potential capacity for the development of diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, it will be possible to focus research in those areas which will provide the greatest benefits.
Existing technologies must also be evaluated against new technologies. A classical approach based on existing technologies especially at the manufacturing level may be more appropriate. An overview of technologies needs to be developed through public and private partnerships in order to evaluate potential applications to the development of control tools.
A database of the new technologies based on the results from the expert groups needs to be established. Publication of the reviews and results from the expert groups should be made widely available. A catalogue of new technologies should be developed and against each of these would be potential applications to new control tools for specific diseases. It will be important to disseminate this information to research funders, research workers and development groups in the industry
A paper has been published titled “A review of existing approaches to the identification, evaluation and selection of New Technologies which could be applied to the Animal health sector” as was a paper titled “A methodology for identification and evaluation of new Technologies in Animal Health”. The latter paper provides a methodology which should be implemented in the future by the stakeholders.
WP 5 To ensure the effective communication and dissemination of information from the project.
To share and disseminate output from the three technical work packages was an essential objective of the project. This was achieved through publications, reports and seminars.
The project also aimed to take an international as well as a Europe wide approach and to focus research at EU-level. Close links were developed with international organizations (OIE, FAO, ILRI) and non-EU countries both developed and developing.
Throughout this project links and two way communication with those responsible for the Community Animal Health Policy in DG SANCO was maintained to ensure that the output from the project contributes to the further development and implementation of the EU policies for the prevention, control or eradication of priority diseases
Good communications between stakeholders and partners as well as with others with an interest in the topics being covered by the project was a vital component to a successful outcome. Outcomes from meetings, working groups, seminars and workshops, etc. were reported to wider audiences especially via the public website. A list of stakeholders was established with the objective of providing electronic information on the activities and progress of the project. Internal communication between the stakeholders is also important and a stakeholder forum was established with regular electronic communication between the project coordinator and those with an interest
A web site was developed in the early stages of the project. An effective web site was crucial to success and has been used instead of regular stakeholder meetings and to act as the main communication method amongst stakeholders and others with an interest. The website is interactive and can be used as a communication tool by the stakeholders and permits real time communication.
The web site has a public access section with a private section for stakeholders and those participating in the project. The information from the prioritisation and gap analysis work packages is on the database to which open access is provided.
Building on the work of the ETPGAH, the DISCONTOOLS project took over the 47 diseases considered by the ETPGAH and expanded this list to 52 diseases.
List of Diseases:
In selecting the diseases, stakeholders were invited to agree on the most important diseases where they considered research to be essential. The diseases were also chosen to represent a wide range of pathogens and species in order to ensure that the model developed would be applicable to the widest possible range of diseases. Fish diseases were originally excluded from the work of the ETPGAH but the stakeholders recognised the value of having fish diseases included. However, it was not possible to include fish diseases but the model should be applicable.
Disease & Product analysis
Having chosen the list of diseases, it was then important to decide what information we needed to gather in relation to each disease and this needed to be directly linked to the criteria for prioritisation and gap analysis. This would ensure key information was gathered to inform the gap analysis work – do we or do we not have a diagnostic, vaccine or pharmaceutical and is it of appropriate quality – and also the prioritisation work – does a bioterrorism threat exist?
This led to the development of the Disease & Product analysis (D&P) document which was used for each disease – see Annex 1.
The D&P includes 23 main sections with sub-headings covering a wide range of aspects such as description and characteristics of the disease, zoonotic potential, tools available, economic impact, etc.
As each D&P was completed for a specific disease, it acted both as a key document to support the scoring for prioritisation and gap analysis and it could also be referenced to challenge scores proposed or gaps identified. Essentially, it acts as an objective source of information taking the subjectivity out of the project work and also helping to ensure that different diseases across species can be compared in a rational manner.
This helped to ensure objectivity and comparability by, for example, prescribing a score in terms of the number of species affected or describing the score appropriate for the bioterrorism impact.
The work of agreeing on the detail of the D&P, identifying the gaps and proposing prioritisation scores needed to be completed by experts familiar with the relevant disease. In order to complete this work, 52 Expert Groups each consisting of 5 to 10 experts were established for each disease. Where possible each group included experts with laboratory expertise, an epidemiologist, an industry representative, a diagnostics expert and an individual with economic/trade expertise. The expert groups were asked to reach a consensus on the final D&P text which they then used as the basis for the scoring in the prioritisation and control tools gap analysis models. Following the work of the first trial groups, Terms of Reference were developed to provide orientation, to assist the Chair of the group and to ensure consistency across groups. As an example, the groups were requested to have a European focus but also to have a global perspective. The diversity of interest in each group helped to ensure that the broad interests of the stakeholders was reflected in the final gap analysis and prioritisation work. The DISCONTOOLS project engaged more than 360 experts from 35 countries across the globe!
The Expert Groups are listed on the website (www.discontools.eu) by disease and appreciated the opportunity to collaborate on the DISCONTOOLS project. Expert Groups have expressed the wish to remain in contact as they appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues and are available to work on updating the database over time. This network is of tremendous value to the animal health research community providing a mechanism to continuously prioritise over time ensuring a sharp focus on critical research needs.
The ETPGAH carried out some work on prioritisation and DISCONTOOLS built on this work as well as bringing in ideas from the paper “Approaches to the prioritisation of disease to focus and prioritise research in animal health: A worldwide review of existing methodologies”. This led to the development of the Prioritisation model – see Annex 2.
The prioritisation exercise was carried out using a scoring grid with 6 main sections as follows: “disease knowledge”, “impact on wider society”, “impact on public health”, “impact on trade”, “animal welfare” and “control tools”. Within each section there are a number of criteria which have been selected and refined. Scores are attributed to the specific criteria that are detailed in each section of the scoring model (between 3 and 10 criteria per section).
The scoring scale applied is a 5-tiered system with the following scores: for the five first sections (“disease knowledge”, “impact on wider society”, “impact on public health”, “impact on trade”, “animal welfare”) 0, +1; +2; +3; +4; For the section dealing with control tools scores of +2; +1; 0; -1; -2 are used. This scoring scale was selected to highlight the differences in control tools for each disease in the sense that if for a particular disease a vaccine exists that has a high level of efficacy, quality, safety and availability, then a negative score will be attributed to the final total score of the concerned disease to diminish its priority as an effective tool is available. On the contrary, if control tools are missing, then a positive score will be added to the total score meaning that the disease will be higher in the prioritised list of diseases.
Once the basic scores were recorded the overall score for each of the criteria is multiplied by a coefficient, the sole purpose of which is to ensure the scores are comparable and based on a total of 100. Both the basic score and the overall score for the individual criteria are available.
An interpretation guide was developed to help the expert groups decide on the appropriate scores to apply to each criterion. The interpretation guide is also valuable for those wishing to interpret the scores – see Annex 3.
As an example, the interpretation guide provides scores for the number of species affected and for the bioterrorism threat involved. By providing this guidance, subjective scores are avoided that would distort cross disease comparison. As far as possible, the objective was to remove subjectivity. As may be appreciated, the data from the D&P also acts as a mechanism to ensure objectivity and as a means to challenge any scores that appear to deviate from the facts in the D&P. The combination of the D&P with the interpretation guide should not be underestimated in terms of removing subjectivity from the project and was seen to really empower cross disease comparisons which was seen to be a major challenge at the outset of the project.
In terms of control tools, one of the issues that emerged was the handling of a situation where a tool is missing but is unlikely to be ever developed. A classic case is that of BSE where we will not develop vaccines or pharmaceuticals. In addition, the likelihood of developing a pharmaceutical to counter a virus – allowing for anti-virals – is highly unlikely. However, the initial scoring system did not allow for this scenario. Hence, the table in Annex 4 was introduced.
As may be seen, the option now exists to choose a -2 score where it is concluded that a product will not be developed. This ensures that we do not incorrectly increase the score of BSE in relation to a lack of vaccine and pharmaceutical tools!
The availability of pharmaceuticals is well documented via easily accessible databases held by regulatory authorities and/or operated by trade associations. In the case of vaccines, the picture was not so clear. The work of the European Medicines Agency in carrying out a survey of the European Union Member States to establish the availability or otherwise of vaccines for the 52 diseases was greatly appreciated. This ensured that the Expert Groups had definitive information to hand concerning vaccine availability and could assess the presence or absence of a gap and/or comment on research that may be needed where we need a better vaccine (efficacy, speed of immunity, prevention of shedding, convenience of use, etc.). With diagnostics, information on what is available is more difficult to access. The project appreciated the input of the European Manufacturers of Veterinary Diagnostics (EMVD) who provided lists of diagnostics available from its members. This information could be coupled with information on availability of diagnostics from public laboratories. However, it is clear that a comprehensive database of products available would be of value to all concerned. From the viewpoint of the DISCONTOOLS project, the data from the EMVD coupled with the knowledge of the Expert Groups allowed accurate assessments to be made of gaps in the diagnostics area. See model in Annex 5.
As with the Prioritisation model, an interpretation guide was developed to help the expert groups decide on the appropriate scores to apply to each criterion. The interpretation guide is also valuable for those wishing to interpret the scores – see Annex 6.
Where a product is not available, it is impossible to score the other criteria. To highlight the gap, the coefficient chosen is 20.
The gap analysis work is very important in terms of informing the “Control Tools” scoring in prioritisation and the constructive interaction between the two scoring mechanisms may be appreciated.
When results were received from an Expert Group, the Secretariat had a first look at the data providing feedback to the Expert Group on any obvious anomalies including what appeared to be errors in scoring. Thereafter, data the results were provided to Work Package 2 and 3 for comment. Again, any comments were fed back to the Expert Group for consideration. Finally, the Project Management Board were invited to comment on the results before the data was posted on the public website. This process ensured a robust quality control procedure.
Interpretation Guide for the scores in the prioritisation and gap analysis models
On viewing the data for the first time, the reader is provided with a wealth of data. In order to guide the reader, an Interpretation Guide was developed with the Index shown in Annex 7.
The purpose is to guide the reader though the data and assist in correct interpretation.
Two Page Summaries
To further assist the reader, two page summaries of each disease have been developed. The full text for Bluetongue may be seen in Annex 8.
The purpose of the two page summary is to provide a quick guide to the results especially to the non-expert user.
The DISCONTOOLS website at www.discontools.eu is open to the public except for a private section which is used to consult on draft documents, etc. before the final version is placed on the public side of the site. The home page provides logical access to information on the project, information on the work groups along with links and access to the database.
Without going into detail, the very considerable volume of data produced as the project developed is easily accessible via the home page.
The database itself provides access to the D&P for each disease along with the two page summary for each disease.
If the D& P is chosen, the user may use the icon to provide feedback making the site interactive. If the Score criteria option is chosen at the top of the page, the user is presented with the various scores with the icon allowing the user to see the data from the D&P that was used as the basis for the scoring.
The various other reports as well as quick access to certain parts of the D&P may be accessed directly from the menu on this page.
Back in the main database, options exist to view Epizootic diseases, Food producing animal complexes or Zoonotic diseases.
When proceeding further, the searchable area of the database allows the user very considerable power to explore the data as desired and in great detail.
One or more diseases may be selected and variables then chosen such as any part or parts of the D&P for easy comparison of data across a number of diseases. As an example, vaccine availability may be chosen. The results are presented along with the relevant text from the D&P including gaps identified.
Again, in terms of interactivity, the user may choose the icon and submit comments. This feature is available as appropriate across the database enabling users to challenge the D&P, scoring, etc. which in turn enhances our ability to keep the data current. Having submitted comments, the relevant Expert Group can then assess all comments received and decide how to update the public data.
The Priorisation model may be chosen for one or more diseases. The output is displayed on the computer but may be downloaded as a PDF or into Excel. The Excel option effectively makes the software publicly available as the user can then manipulate the data as desired. This includes creating charts from the data.
This is a very important feature in terms of access to the software.
The Scoring criteria option may be used to compare and contrast the scoring for one or more diseases with the criteria used being visible on the page.
The Prioritisation model (rank by score only) allows the user to see the total scores for one or more diseases on screen.
The Gap analysis model option allows the user to compare gap analysis results for one or more diseases.
Referring back to the Excel option, an example of the type of chart that may be presented may be seen in Annex 9. This chart gives meaning to the saying that “A picture paints a thousand words” as it allows the user to visually compare and contrast data which would be much more difficult to do on the basis of scores alone.
WP 2 produced the publication “Approaches to the prioritisation of diseases to focus and prioritise research in animal health: A worldwide review of existing methodologies” which was published on the DISCONTOOLS website on September 30th, 2012. This was a major review of previous work and was an important input to the development of the DISCONTOOLS model.
WP 4 produced the publication “A review of existing approaches to the identification, evaluation and selection of New Technologies which could be applied to the Animal Health sector” on January 5th, 2012. Following this review of existing approaches, WP 4 produced the publication “A methodology for identification and evaluation of New Technologies in Animal Health” on August 31st, 2012. Both of these publications were published on the DISCONTOOLS website. The methodology in the latter publication needs to be pursued over time to ensure the rapid deployment of new technologies in the animal health research area.
With the factual data of the D&P and Gap Analysis & Prioritisation criteria agreed, it was then possible, via Expert Groups, to carry out both Gap Analysis and Prioritisation. The quality control steps ensured that only high quality data was placed on the public website.
The Interpretation Guide and Two Page Summaries assist the user in interpreting the data.
Most importantly, the database on the public website allows the user to interrogate the data as desired along with providing a very powerful feedback mechanism. The option to export to Excel effectively makes the software publicly available and also facilitates presenting the data graphically.
In terms of science and technology, the process engaged in by the DISCONTOOLS project brings objectivity to the task of prioritising research and has resulted in the development of a unique prioritisation methodology that has engaged the interest of the animal health research community across the globe. The database is of great value especially to those funding research and if it used as intended, the focus on research will hasten the development of new or improved diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
Concerning the deployment of new technologies, the methodology published by WP 4 needs to be pursued over time to bring benefits to the animal health research community.
The impact of the DISCONTOOLS project has been to create a stakeholder supported prioritisation and gap analysis methodology. The impact has also been to review and recommend how new technologies should be introduced into the animal health research world in an efficient manner.
The agreement on prioritisation and gap analysis enables the targeting of research funding at the major gaps in the major diseases. From a socio-economic aspect, this means that society will benefit from the more rapid development of new or improved diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals as scarce resources are deployed in a focused manner. From a broader societal perspective, food security will be improved, agricultural production will become more efficient and sustainable and broader societal benefits such as improved companion animal health will follow.
Throughout the 5 year life of the DISCONTOOLS project, an emphasis has been placed on communicating the purpose of the project, its on-going development and final output. The list of presentations seen in Annex 10 captures our work in communicating the development of the project.
Exploitation of Results
The DISCONTOOLS project conference held on November 20th, 2012 was the first opportunity to present the full DISCONTOOLS database. The animal health research community was well represented at this meeting affording an opportunity to communicate the output of the project to a key audience with the attendees being united in their call for the continuation of the DISCONTOOLS work. Presentations may be found at http://www.discontools.eu/upl/1/default/doc/DISCONTOOLSConfPackFullWeb.pdf
To advance the long term sustainability of the project, the results were presented to the ANIHWA ERA-Net on February 28th, 2013 and also to the CVOs on April 16th, 2013. These presentations complemented the November conference in terms of highlighting the value of the DISCONTOOLS database.
It is clear from direct comments and third party information that many national funders of research are using the DISCONTOOLS database as a means of objectively deciding where to spend research funding – this is the exact outcome that represents the perfect exploitation of the DISCONTOOLS work.
To underline the value of the database, discussions are at an advanced stage with national funders of research to agree a budget in the value of €100,000 per year to continue the DISCONTOOLS work. It is expected that agreement will have been reached on long term funding by early 2014 when personnel will be employed and the work of expanding the number of diseases considered will be undertaken as will the task of updating the information already on the website.
List of Websites:
The website is at www.discontools.eu and the contact point is Declan O’ Brien, Managing Director, IFAH-Europe, Rue Defacqz 1, 1000, Brussels, Belgium. Tel: 00322 543 7560 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org