Gérard Krause moves from HZI to WHO

Head of Epidemiology at the HZI takes over a new department at the World Health Organisation in Geneva

Prof Gérard KrauseProf Gérard Krause ©HZI/Verena MeierAfter twelve years as head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Prof Gérard Krause is moving to the World Health Organization (WHO) where he will become the director of a newly established department for "Surveillance Systems" on 1 March 2023. Under his leadership, various digital health tools such as SORMAS, PIA and SafeVac were developed and brought to market at the HZI, new laboratory diagnostic methods were developed, and several large epidemiological population studies were conducted. In addition to his position at the HZI, Krause also holds affiliations with the Hannover Medical School (MHH), the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), the NAKO Health Study and TWINCORE.

"As an internationally renowned epidemiologist, Gérard Krause has made several significant contributions to research and the strategic direction of the HZI over  the past twelve years. In particular, the development and national and international implementation of SORMAS as well as his great personal commitment to public information during the COVID-19 pandemic were contributions of particularly high societal value," says Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI. "His new prominent position at the WHO is a special honour for him as a scientist and a special appreciation of our researchers who are working to better control current and future infectious disease outbreaks. At the same time, we regret Gérard Krause's imminent departure, which will leave a big gap for the time being."

After obtaining his doctorate in tropical hygiene in 1993, the physician Gérard Krause initially worked in internal medicine, tropical medicine, hospital hygiene and epidemiology in Germany and the USA. In 2000, he moved to the Robert Koch Institute as head of department and later head of division. After his habilitation in 2005, he was appointed Chair of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the Hannover Medical School and to the HZI as head of the Department of Epidemiology in 2011. Krause is a co-founder of the NAKO Health Study, a large cohort study on health in Germany, and in 2013 he founded Germany's first doctoral programme in epidemiology. In 2016, he became director of the newly established Institute for Infectious Disease Epidemiology at TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research. From 2016 to 2017, he was President of the German Society for Epidemiology and from 2016 to 2020, he was Coordinator of the “Infrastructure Epidemiology" of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).

"Prof Krause has rendered outstanding services to the pandemic response in Germany through his work at the HZI. In addition to his infection research, he also played a major role in setting up the SORMAS surveillance system. This way the data on infection incidence could be pooled and processed for decision-makers, which was key to manage and overcome the pandemic. I wish him every success in regarding his new tasks at the WHO and am sure that he will continue to advance the WHO in the area of surveillance with his know-how," says Secretary of State Judith Pirscher, Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

"The fact that we are now bidding Prof Gérard Krause farewell from Braunschweig is most regrettable for the Helmholtz Association, but a stroke of luck for global health. We are proud that one of our outstanding infection researchers has been appointed to such a prime position at the WHO. SORMAS is an excellent example of how Helmholtz cutting-edge research can be translated into practice at the right time to help solve major challenges of our time. We sincerely thank Gérard Krause for the great work he has done for Helmholtz research at the HZI, but also for Germany as a research location in general," says Prof Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association.

Krause will take over as head of the newly established department for "Surveillance Systems" at the WHO in Geneva. The department will promote international exchange on and synchronisation of the most varied  early warning and monitoring systems for infectious diseases. Together with experts from all WHO regions, national public health agencies and the scientific community, the department will develop international standards and support countries in strengthening their surveillance systems to improve our collective ability to detect epidemics and pandemics at an early stage and contain them in a targeted manner. "Tackling epidemic surveillance in such a holistic and comprehensive way is a real opportunity to better protect the world from future epidemics," says Gérard Krause. "However, the task is huge. I would like to make my contribution to this."

"Over the past years, Gérard Krause has shown time and again how research and innovation in the field of early warning and surveillance systems can be brought together. With him on the team, we can now work to make this experience useful for the benefit of all WHO Member States," says Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Assistant Director-General at WHO leading the Division of Health Emergency Intelligence & Surveillance Systems, which includes the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence.

This year, Gérard Krause will be awarded the DZIF Prize for Translational Infection Research for the development of SORMAS. SORMAS also made it to the top three in the final round of the highly endowed Zayed Sustainability Prize out of more than 900 projects submitted from countries around the world. Krause developed the open-source digital platform SORMAS together with partners from Nigeria and Germany during the West African Ebola epidemic in 2014/2015. SORMAS stands for "Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System" and helps with the early detection of epidemics and the management of containment measures. The software is now being used successfully in eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, including in the fight against Lassa fever, MPOX, meningitis, measles and the COVID-19 pandemic. In Germany, more than 130 health authorities have used SORMAS for pandemic management. To ensure a  sustainable further development and expansion of SORMAS, the HZI has spun off the SORMAS Foundation, developed by Krause, as a non-profit start-up (www.sormas.org).

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