• Fix screen
  • Auto screen

Font size:

Network of expertise on animal influenza

OIE - World Organization for Animal HealthFAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Minutes of the OFFLU Steering Committee Meetings

Note of the OFFLU Steering Committee meeting, IAEA Headquarters, Vienna 13th July 2010


Steering Committee - Steve Edwards, Gerrit Viljoen, Gideon Bruckner (t), Cristobal Zepeda (t) Other participants - Peter Daniels, Gwenaelle Dauphin, Keith Hamilton, David Swayne, Mia Kim (t)
Observer - Liz Mumford (WHO)

Outstanding actions from previous meeting (January 25th 2010)

Minutes from the 25th January 2010 Steering Committee (SC) meeting were agreed, and the objectives of OFFLU were reaffirmed. A couple of actions remain outstanding (below).

Action: GD to chase up legal status of OFFLU within FAO.

Linking the OFFLU legal status with the GF-TADs agreement should be met with caution because OFFLU is a separate entity from GF-TADs with its own governance.

Action: PD to find out whether the FAO molecular project in SE Asia can be branded as an OFFLU project.

OFFLU people

David Swayne has begun a one year secondment to OIE. Filip Claes and Caroline Costello (part time) have joined the OFFLU team at FAO.

OFFLU’s technical activities (TA)

The OFFLU Executive Committee (EC) is responsible for day to day management of the OFFLU technical activities (TA)

The TAs continue to make headway and deliver useful outputs; these should be made more visible.

The SC agreed that the objectives of the TA at the human animal interface were embedded in several of the other TAs that public health experts contribute to.

Action: Replace the human animal interface activity with specific relevant projects, and continue to collaborate with WHO on an ongoing basis.

The OFFLU surveillance strategy document is developing nicely and it should be publicised more widely. It would be improved with some introductory text to explain its purpose and relationship with other FAO and OIE guidance material. Once complete, publication should be considered.

Action: KH/CZ to include some text about the OFFLU surveillance strategy’s purpose and relationship with other guidance.

Timm Harder has raised the possibility of establishing some proficiency testing for the OFFLU laboratory network. It was agreed that this should be taken forward within the OFFLU proficiency testing TA.

Two laboratory technical projects, ‘Evaluation and validation of selected LAMPs with emphasis on Avian Influenza and testing its suitability under field conditions’ and ‘Implementation and evaluation of a pseudotype-based neutralization assay for the measurement of antibody responses against avian H5N1 HPAI viruses’ will be supported by OIE and FAO (30% of total cost) respectively. The LAMP project was selected for funding by OIE following a call for tender made to OFFLU experts in December 2009.

The SC reviewed recommendations of the FAO Real-time evaluation of HPAI (2010) and identified actions that are either already being addressed by OFFLU, or can be taken forward by OFFLU.

Egypt and Indonesia vaccine projects

The two projects aim to provide advice to the veterinary services of Egypt and Indonesia about selecting the best virus seed strains for HPAI H5N1 poultry vaccines for use in these countries.

The Indonesian government has agreed in principle to release sequences of avian influenza (AI) viruses, generated during the OFFLU project, into a public available sequence database with the request that intellectual property rights are respected. This landmark event should be widely communicated along with the benefits of the project.

A strategy to sustain the benefits of the Indonesian project should be developed, including linking it with other projects in the region.

The Egypt project is due to close in February 2011; there is no plan to maintain the activities.

OFFLU Chairman in Geneva

Affirming OFFLU as a key source of information about animal influenza viruses for the public health sector, Steve Edwards was invited to speak at the WHO meeting which aimed to improve the human influenza vaccine strain selection process. This was another step forward in developing a formal mechanism for OFFLU’s involvement and technical input to the WHO strain selection process.

Discussions around the meeting advanced other areas of collaboration between OFFLU and the WHO’s Global Influenza Programme (GIP), including plans to share reagents between OFFLU and WHO laboratories so that comparable antigenic data could be generated. WHO also suggested that for countries where animal health influenza laboratories were weak, WHO National Influenza Centres could provide support if needed.

Action: In consultation with the Executive Committee LM to take forward and deliver a formal plan for OFFLU’s involvement in WHO strain selection meetings.

Action: LM/PD to take forward an initiative for WHO laboratories to provide ferret sera to selected OFFLU laboratories that will be providing HI data to WHO’s strain selection process.

OFFLU Strategic direction

The SC endorsed the OFFLU vision statement, and the OFFLU strategic implementation plan which is a dynamic document.

Action: KH to put the OFFLU strategic implementation plan on the OFFLU website.

OFFLU experts and visibility

OFFLU now has greater visibility in the international scientific community and is delivering technical outputs. It is important to promote OFFLU’s technical achievements and other related science at conferences. OFFLU should refocus participation at scientific meetings to encourage OFFLU technical experts, from laboratories and institutions, to present their scientific data, whilst acknowledging OFFLU.

OFFLU experts should be reminded about the benefits provided by OFFLU, such as collaborative research opportunities and greater access to biological material.

The SC agreed that OIE, FAO, and WHO should be sensitive to the demands on influenza expert’s time and should better coordinate themselves to avoid duplicating experts’ participation in meetings that address the same things.

The SC agreed that OIE, FAO, and WHO should continue to promote OFFLU where possible. Other joint initiatives, such as ‘one health’ should help to promote OFFLU and not duplicate its activities or objectives.

Animal influenza gene observatory

The SC had already agreed to the principle of developing an animal influenza gene observatory as an OFFLU activity. The platform and tools to support this exist within OFFLU
- including the global network of animal influenza laboratories, OFFLU surveillance strategy, gene sequencing and analyses initiatives, a project to track mutations, the OIE/FAO governance, and OFFLU’s formal relationship with WHO. Such an initiative clearly comes under the auspices of OIE and FAO, and the mandate of OFFLU. The SC reaffirmed that the gene observatory should be taken forward as an OFFLU TA. First steps should include defining feasibility, scope, and a work plan. Funding should be jointly sought by OIE and FAO.

Action: OFFLU EC to take forward the development of an OFFLU global gene observatory as an OFFLU TA complementing other related OFFLU activities and projects.

OFFLU already embraces most of the principles and governance described in a ‘One flu’ concept note circulated to the SC. FAO and OIE agreed that ‘One flu’ should not be taken forward as an initiative separate to OFFLU. It was suggested that WHO would be unlikely to support a separate initiative duplicating existing OFFLU activities or mandates

Action: SE to write to Ilaria Capua in response to the ‘One flu’ concept note, asking for further clarification and informing her about OFFLU’s position.

The Executive Committee and Technical Activities

Terms of reference for the Executive Committee and Technical Activities have been updated by the EC and were endorsed by the SC.

OFFLU review of global avian influenza control measures

During his one year secondment to OIE, David Swayne will undertake a review of global avian influenza control measures, with a focus on vaccination. The project aims to assess what has worked well and what has not worked so well in different settings and contexts. Although based at OIE, David will work closely with FAO and will travel extensively visiting and talking with country representatives. He will also collaborate with WHO. Outputs will be a public good and shared with the international organisations and community; they will be published in a peer review journal.

In addition to OIE, FAO expressed their commitment to provide any available data held by their organisations that would assist David with his review. WHO will also provide support.

Action: DS to continue with his proposed work plan and to consult the OFFLU applied epidemiology group for their advice on epidemiological aspects.

WHO and OFFLU joint activities

Proposals for joint OFFLU-WHO technical projects include:

  1. GIP-OFFLU influenza virus mutation tracking - an ongoing activity to provide guidance on molecular markers of animal and public health significance.
  2. OFFLU contribution to WHO human influenza vaccine strain selection process - develop a formal mechanism jointly with OFFLU for participation of OFFLU experts in the strain selection meeting and on data requirements from the WHO side.

The SC endorsed the proposals. The projects would replace the TA at the human animal interface and LM would lead them, consult with the SC and EC when needed, and report to OFFLU on their progress.

Action: LM to take these projects forward.

Action: LM to work with the EC to develop material for a break-out session at the OFFLU technical meeting in November to discuss progress with the mutation tracking activity. Optimally the break-out session will discuss outputs from this project.

  1. FAO - WHO project to link epidemiological and sequence data in some pilot countries, with some support from OFFLU.

Action: CZ - on behalf of the OFFLU applied epidemiology group - to provide comments on this draft concept note.

In addition to these project proposals, FAO are also collaborating with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) to link epidemiological and genetic sequence data.

Action: GD to update SC on progress and a description of this project.

OFFLU Research Agenda

OFFLU will develop an animal influenza research agenda. DS is happy to lead this activity with input from Kristien Vanreeth (swine influenza), Ian Brown (avian influenza), and an expert from the equine influenza network. The group will develop a list of high priority research topics and circulate this amongst major laboratories for comment. A draft research agenda will be prepared and put to a break out group for discussion during the OFFLU November technical meeting. Input will also be provided by WHO, where appropriate.

OFFLU annual surveillance report

There had been a proposal to develop an annual OFFLU surveillance report, summarising global animal influenza surveillance data. The SC decided that the scope was too large and that it would not meet a specific need. On balance it would probably put too much demand on available resources. As an alternative it was suggested that OFFLU should develop a high level annual activity report in a journalistic style.

Action: KH to take this forward.

The annual OFFLU technical meeting

The annual OFFLU technical meeting will take place on November 16-17th 2010 at FAO headquarters in Rome. The EC and DS will be the Scientific Organising Committee with input from LM.

Action: FAO to formally accept, to book meeting rooms, and organise logistics

Action: EC to develop an agenda and finalise list of invitees

Action: the OFFLU secretariat to send invitations.

OFFLU Secretariat

OIE and FAO have agreed that the core Secretariat will remain at OIE headquarters in Paris for further time. An exchange of letters between OIE and FAO formalises this agreement with conditions for improving the secretariat functioning and equal visibility of OIE and FAO. As OFFLU grows, some secretariat functions can be shared with FAO. FAO is requesting to host the OFFLU website.

Action: Secretariat to implement conditions agreed in the OIE/FAO letter exchange.


OIE and FAO should develop a joint concept note and proposal to attract more funds for the management of OFFLU, and other activities. OFFLU should also develop a budget for the forthcoming period.

Action: KH to retrieve previous correspondence on this topic and circulate.


FAO had concerns that statements in two scientific publications were not scientifically robust.

The SC decided that OFFLU does not have a mandate to scrutinise statements in scientific literature. Unless the circumstances are exceptional concerns about publications should be communicated scientist to scientist.

Date of next meeting

In approximately 6 months

To top