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Escaping Extinction/ Über:Leben

Preventing the next pandemic: An evening with Prof. Ulrike Protzer and Dr. Fabian Leendertz

11.05.2021 19:00 Uhr – 19:00 Uhr

Tuesday 11 May 2021, 19:00 CEST

BIOTOPIA continues its event series ESCAPING EXTINCTION | ÜBER:LEBEN with an exciting conversation on the animal origin of pandemics. For this event, we welcome Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer, Head of Virology at TUM and Helmholtz Zentrum München, as well as one of the world's leading zoonoses researchers, Dr. Fabian Leendertz.

The event will be held in German, introduced by Dr. Auguste von Bayern and moderated by science communicator Dr. Dora Dzvonyar, Head of BIOTOPIA Lab & Events.

Registration: http://biotopia.net/en/event

We have been experiencing the devastating impact of a pandemic on our lives and economic system for over a year now - but where do such highly contagious pathogens come from? About 70 percent of all human diseases have an animal origin. Zoonoses are often responsible for this, i.e. infectious diseases that are transmitted from animal to human or human to animal. The passage between hosts offers pathogens favorable conditions for mutation. The list of zoonoses includes the globally known pathogens MERS, HIV, swine and avian flu, Ebola and now also SARS-CoV-2.

We humans favor the emergence of zoonoses through our behavior - and in the process also increase the risk of future pandemics. Zoonoses are more likely to occur where humans and animals meet in close quarters. Human encroachment into numerous ecosystems and the resulting destruction of the habitats of many animals, as well as the unauthorized hunting of wild species, are leading to more and more of these contacts. As a result, humans and animals exchange pathogens - sometimes with devastating effects for both sides.

Such examples demonstrate the close connection between the health of humans, animals and our environment. The concept of "One Health", which has developed over the last 10-15 years, takes a holistic view of these areas and their interaction and describes approaches to interdisciplinary cooperation, including the fight against zoonoses. Can we reduce or even eliminate the risk of the next pandemic through approaches like these?

We look forward to bringing together the perspectives of virologist Prof. Protzer and zoonoses researcher Dr. Leendertz on these and other exciting questions.

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Protzer is a physician for internal medicine and virologist. She heads the institute of virology for the two university hospitals of the Technical University of Munich, the Klinikum rechts der Isar and Deutsches Herzzentrum. For years she has been working on the molecular biology of viruses, the interaction of viruses with their host, humans, and the development and control of chronic viral diseases. Her research focus is the hepatitis B virus, which claims the lives of more than 850,000 people each year after an insidious infection. Together with her team, she is working on innovative therapeutic approaches that fight the virus with the help of the immune system. Similar to tumor therapy, T cells are targeted to infected cells by vaccines or designer molecules to eliminate the virus. Through new cell culture and animal models, research into new therapeutic approaches has made great strides, especially in the last 2-3 years. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, she has been intensively studying the new SARS coronavirus and possible ways to control the pandemic.

Dr. Fabian Leendertz is a biologist and veterinarian and is considered one of the world's most renowned zoonotic disease researchers. He was selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) in late 2020 as one of ten researchers to investigate the source of SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Leendertz leads the "Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms" working group at the Robert Koch Institute and, as part of his work, identifies novel zoonotic pathogens in research projects in Africa. The research group works closely with local research institutes and promotes the establishment of local capacities for disease control. Each project is based on the "One Health" concept: not only the host of the pathogen is analyzed, but also the environmental factors surrounding it, in order to discover possible links to the development of zoonoses. Dr. Leendertz is a recipient of the UN's "Champions of the Earth" award, which honors organizations and individuals whose actions have had a pioneering impact on the environment.