Preventing pandemics: New funding initiative initiated

How can viruses be prevented from being transmitted from animals to humans and thus triggering the next pandemic? With its new funding initiative, the Volkswagen Foundation is supporting researchers who are looking for answers to this complex question.

Market women offer fried rats
Wildlife trade, for example with rats or bats, poses major health risks. Almost all dangerous infectious diseases in recent years have been transmitted from animals to humans. (Photo: ssviluppo - stock.adobe.com)

"Instead of merely reacting to pandemics once they have happened, we urgently need to take more precautionary measures. With the new initiative, the Foundation wants to stimulate research into the often still unknown interactions between humans and the environment. Funding will be made available across disciplines and national borders. Taking precautions will not prevent new pandemics altogether, but it will alleviate their effects on the population’s health," says Dr. Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation. 

The new initiative "Global Challenges - Preventing Pandemics: the Role of Human-Environmental Interactions” is aimed specifically at researchers willing to address questions such as these: What interactions between people and the environment foster the emergence and spread of diseases? And how can science help to shape contacts between humans and animals in such a way that the risk of transmission can be reduced in future?

The call is open to all scientific disciplines, but each international project group should include representatives of the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural, life or engineering sciences. Each group must include at least two researchers from institutions in low- or middle-income non-European countries. Moreover, other social groups, such as non-governmental organizations or local actors, should also be involved and the knowledge gained should later be of practical use. The teams can apply for a total of up to 1.5 million euros, the closing date for applications is November 4, 2021. Find more information about the call here: "Global Challenges - Preventing Pandemics: the Role of Human-Environmental Interactions”.

Background funding programme Global Challenges 

The call for proposals runs under the umbrella of the programme "Global Challenges - Integrating Different Perspectives", which was launched in 2017. It aims to stimulate and strengthen international cooperation on pressing and global societal challenges of the 21st century between researchers from different regions of the world. 

Following the Foundation's strategic realignment this year, the programme is anchored in the profile area "Societal Transformations". In addition to supporting cross-border and multi-perspective approaches, the Foundation is opening up new ways of practically shaping social transformations in this area and also wants to involve actors outside academia. In doing so, it does not merely want to supplement the discourse with diagnostic expertise, but to anticipate the future and develop concrete options for social action - also in the sense of prevention.