Scientists around the world are teaming up in research and teaching to search for innovative responses to the major health challenges of our time. We present two European concepts.
Innovative Erasmus master’s degree course in the battle against infectious diseases
From the plague and Spanish flu to corona: all major pandemics have been triggered by pathogens that colonise animals and are then transmitted to humans. Known as zoonotic, events such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic show just how important it is for knowledge and expertise relevant to health to be passed on to the next generation of scientists. Infectious diseases and health risks at the point of intersection between humans, animals and ecosystems are the central focus of the “One Health” concept that the Infectious Diseases and One Health (IDOH+) consortium is using to lay the foundation for a multidisciplinary worldwide network. The University of Tours, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Hannover Medical School are among Europe’s leading research-oriented universities in the field of infectious disease. Together, they have developed an innovative master’s course leading to a joint degree that gives IDOH+ students extensive specialist knowledge in the global battle against infectious disease. They are familiarised with the entire process, from assessing the infection and conducting the early stages of clinical research to developing a vaccine.
Each of the partner universities has a different research focus to contribute to the collaboration. “Barcelona has long been conducting research on camels and has had zoonotic diseases on their agenda for years”, explains Dr. Jens Bohne, project coordinator at the Hannover Medical School. The German university boasts considerable expertise in the field of human medicine, while the partners at Tours are particularly strong in the area of molecular biology.
The 2020/21 winter semester will see 24 students from 16 countries begin their master’s degree course in France, where face-to-face teaching will be allowed again from the autumn. The course will then continue in Barcelona in January, and after that in Hanover. Applicants from all over the world are being interviewed on an ongoing basis via Skype. A points system developed by the University of Tours is based on parameters such as internships, degrees already obtained and any professional experience the applicants may have.
Laboratory training is one aspect that sets the course apart in particular. “Our master’s students receive intensive training and learn through experimental work how pathogens function at the molecular level”, explains Bohne, adding that the university network gives them not only different perspectives on Europe, but also a nuanced look at the health sciences. “By the end of their studies, our graduates take home with them a broad range of knowledge.”
European University Alliance
Five universities, one goal: “We want to create the Europe-wide campus of tomorrow”, explains Philipp Beck. He coordinates the European University Alliance for Global Health (EUGLOH) at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU). Together with the universities of Paris-Saclay (France), Lund (Sweden), Porto (Portugal) and Szeged (Hungary), the Munich university is closely collaborating on an interdisciplinary basis with these university partners, especially on global health degree courses and teaching. Each of the five universities has its own expertise to contribute. The partners are keen to use these resources, create synergies and pave the way for students in the future to access courses at different universities. As one of 41 European University Alliances, the EU is providing total funding of up to five million euros during a threeyear project phase.
From 2021, the initiative will be expanded within the framework of the new Erasmus+ programme line. “We are engaged in intensive and regular exchange on the virtual level”, says Project Manager Beck. So far, the joint events have been attended by around 900 people. “A cross-university module on the subject of global health is being developed, and joint degree courses are also planned in the medium term.” Under the name EUGLOHRIA (EUGLOH Research & Innovation Action), the consortium is extending the network to include a research dimension in addition to education and mobility. “Within the alliance we want to actively create opportunities for cooperation in research and innovation”, explains Beck. For example, the research activities in the area of Covid-19 are to be coordinated between the partner universities and cross-university “Business-Academia Networks” established.
Autorin: Gunda Achterhold