Baltic Network against life-treatening viral infections

Formerly the New Visby Hepatitis C Network

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Network projects and achievements

New Thematic Partnership:
“BALTIC NETWORK AGAINST LIFE-THREATENING VIRAL INFECTIONS”

THE PREHISTORY OF THE THEMATIC PARTNERSHIP
In 2002, the Malmo University Hospital and Lund University (Coordinators) have created a Network along with the Swedish Institute for Infectious Diseases Control, Karolinska Institutet, Biomedical Research and Study Centre, Latvian University (Latvia), Academy of  Sciences, Ivanovsky Institute of Virology, Moscow (Russia) to address the open questions on the correlates of clinical course and outcome of hepatitis C virus infection. The following partners have joined the network further: the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry and the Institute of Cytology, St. Petersburg (Russia) in 2003, the Tartu University (Estonia) and the Belorussian State Medical University, Minsk (Belarus) in 2005, the National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn (Estonia) in 2008.   The former Lithuanian AIDS Centre was incorporated in 2010.  
The Networking has been possible through the financial support of the Swedish Institute, as well as the substantial in-puts of the networking partners. During ten years, the Network has built an effective international team pursuing medical research as well as high-school education in microbiology and infectious diseases. This fruitful collaboration between researchers and medical doctors of the Baltic region has resulted in close to 60 papers published in English and in the national languages, multiple conference presentations, four completed PhD studies, and intensive exchange of researchers between the collaborative laboratories (see List of publications here).

The Network of scientists from Sweden, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania followed an aim to define host and viral parameters of hepatitis C  - as a leading global cause of liver morbidity and cancer  - outcome and develop a vaccine. The Network became unique in its capacity to optimally use human and financial resources, complement each other on the methodological and knowledge-based level, critically evaluate research progress and unpublished results.

From July 1, 2013 the Hepatitis C Network has been transformed into the Baltic Network against life-threatening viral infections. The new expanded Network has received the support of the Swedish Institute for the period 2013-2016. The new Network will work on the burning issues of protection of the population of the Baltic region from viral hepatitis, HIV-1 and pandemic influenza.

AIMS OF THE PARTNERSHIP
1.    Develop new technologies of viral diagnostics and virus detection in the environment and biological materials (patient samples, environmental samples; samples collected in public places);
2.    Model viral epidemics: materials and data we collect will characterize regional patterns of viral hepatitis, HIV, influenza spread to aid the surveillance and control of epidemics.
3.    Enhance integration of research and technology development  and advance novel ultrasensitive highly specific microchip, nanoparticle, and charged filter based techniques of virus and antivirus antibody detection.
4.    Design new vaccine candidates and develop new vaccination strategies to adequately respond to the increasing spread of drug resistant viral strains.
5.    Assist to commercialization of the innovative solutions in viral detection and identification for the purposes of public hygiene and viral diagnostics.
6.    Organize and perform different forms of professional and public education, as lecture courses, web tutorials, conferences, workshops, laboratory training, scientific and popular publications and reports, to disseminate information on the actual threats to public health, and support Baltic community efforts to control the viral spread.     

PARTNERSHIP STRUCTURE
Project integrates 12 teams from Sweden, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Poland, and 4 associated clinical partners.

Medical Universities and research institutes are represented by:
-    Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden;
-    Lund University, Sweden;
-    National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, and Department of Infectious Diseases, Tartu University, Estonia;
-    Biomedical Research and Study Center, Riga, Latvia;
-    Riga Stradins University, Riga, Latvia;
-    Ivanovsky Institute of Virology associated Moscow State University of Dentistry and Medicine, and Medical Faculty of the Peoples Friendship University, Moscow,  Russia;
-    Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viruses Encephalitis, Moscow, Russia;
-    University of Kuopio, Kuipio, Finland (non-financed partner).

Governmental organizations represented by:
-    Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, Stockholm, Sweden;
-    Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS, Vilnius, Lithuania;
-    Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital together with Pasteur Institute, St Petersburg, Russia.

Commercial company: Central European Biotechnology Portal, Lodz, Poland/CEB

CONTINUING THE TRADITIONS
The Partnership will continue the tradition of the Annual Conferences which disseminate the newest achievements in the field of biomedicine with application to life-threatening viral diseases. The first 10 meetings were held in Stockholm in 2003, Riga in 2005, Malmo in 2006, Moscow in 2007, Stockholm in 2008, Tallinn in 2009, Tartu in 2010, Vilnius in 2011, St. Petersburg in 2012,  Riga in 2013, and where devoted majorly to viral hepatitis C and also other hepatotropic viral infections and co-infections.  For example, presentations in the 10th Conference, held in Riga, Latvia, in 2013 covered the following areas: HCV molecular virology; clinical sequels and treatment of hepatitis C; HCV immunology and vaccine development; HCV epidemiology and social issues.

Since the Thematic Partnership against life-threatening viral infections in Balticum has broadened the area of biomedical research, the 11th Annual Conference of the Baltic Network Against Life-Threatening Viral Infections would provide a wider platform for discussion of results of research on blood-borne virus infections as HIV-1, viral hepatitis B and C, also enteral infections as viral hepatitis A and E, as well as influenza. This 11th meeting will be organized in Vilnius, Lithuania, in April 2014.

Another tradition is an Open Lecture Course “HEPATITIS ABC” for medical students, doctors and researchers, first held in Vilnius 2011, then at St Petersburg University 2012, and the Stradins Medical University in 2013. This course in 2014 will be broadened to include HIV-1 and AIDS, and viral co-infections. The course would follow the annual conference.

Read more about the Conference and the lecture course .


MORE ABOUT OUR HISTORY

Network structure and history (pdf)

Summary of application submitted for 2011-2013 in Swedish (pdf)