DISCONTOOLS - Identifying research gaps in animal disease control

06 Sep 2019

Animal health plays a central role in addressing many of the challenges our society is faced with today. Global demands for nutritious and safe animal-based food are increasing; increased mobility of people and animals lends to a rapid spread of diseases; climate change alters disease occurrence; healthy animals are more resource-efficiënt and are key to achieving the UN sustainable development goals.

Public and private sectors together invest annually approximately 1 billion EUR in basic and applied research, in the EU alone. This improves our knowledge on pathogens & immune mechanisms and leads to improved control strategies, reduced spread of animal disease and secured provision of livestock products. But with major progress made in the containment of infectious diseases over the last decades, where does future research have the largest impact? And what are the remaining knowledge gaps that need to be filled to produce the animal health solutions of the future?

DISCONTOOLS (DISease CONtrol TOOLS) is the open-access database to assist public and private funders of animal health research and researchers in identifying research gaps and planning future research. The database contains information on more than 50 infectious diseases in animals, with the research gaps as well as a gap and prioritisation scoring model for each disease. The database is run as a joint initiative by funders of research, research institutions, animal health industry, regulators, veterinarians and farmers. To date, over 400 experts, from academia, industry and public bodies have contributed to keep the information updated. Recently updated chapters include those on Toxoplasmosis, PRRS and Bluetongue. Qualitative vaccinology gaps for a disease can be searched via the “Create report” button while selecting relevant topics such as “Vaccines availability”, “Research requirement for new vaccines” or “Main means of prevention, detection and control”. The prioritisation model allows to select criteria of interest and compare these across diseases. A summary document synthesises the critical gaps for each disease.

The identified gaps feed into the STAR‐IDAZ International Research Consortium (IRC) on animal health where working groups are developing research road maps for a number of priority issues to develop the critical pieces of knowledge and new or improved vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. In this way, DISCONTOOLS helps to prioritise research, fill gaps in our knowledge and speed up the development of new solutions.

For further information, please email DISCONTOOLS Project Manager Johannes Charlier at info [at] discontools [dot] eu