The Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) research community has been actively engaged in national and international COVID-19 research efforts from very early in the pandemic. The ability to access established SciLifeLab infrastructure and expertise within that research community undoubtedly expedited studies on COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 at the molecular, cellular, patient, population, and environmental levels.
As part of their efforts to tackle the pandemic, SciLifeLab was also quick to establish programs to support research efforts. The first was the The SciLifeLab/KAW National COVID-19 Research Program, which was established in April 2020 and cofunded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW). More recently, SciLifeLab was commissoned to establish a program focussed on pandemic preparedness. Here, we provide background and relevant links related to the resultant research program; the Pandemic Laboratory Preparedness (PLP) program.
Progress to date
In December 2020, the Swedish government comissioned SciLifeLab to build capacity for future pandemics. The assignment broadly involved supporting research related to infectious diseases (e.g. in diagnostics, analysis of infection, immunity, and the development of resistance to therapies in pathogens), and building competence and developing technologies related to pandemic research (e.g. in sequencing, genetic analysis, immunology, and big data). The services, tools, and resources (termed ‘capabilities’) established through the PLP program are intended to assist and complement those established elsewhere in society (e.g. authorities, municipalities and regions) to tackle future pandemics. As such, the PLP program will work in close consultation with governmental agencies, e.g. Swedish Public Health Agency (FoHM).
In February 2021, the PLP program sent out a national open call for letters of intent to develop capabilities (i.e. tools/resources/services) that could be used to detect and monitor COVID-19, and/or to help combat future pandemics.
As of July 2021, the first eight capabilities were selected for support as part of the first stage of the program (PLP1) (see the SciLifeLab webpage for more information on the selection process). The capabilities in PLP1 are focussed on: biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) capacity, biobanking and clinical sample handling, environmental detection of pathogens, immunomonitoring, serology, and sequencing. Refer to the PLP1 section below to find out more about these projects.
A new laboratory preparedness expression of interest (EoI) call to create a nationally significant infrastructure capability was launched in Spring 2022. Any proposals were expected to integrate real-world testing and proof of concept. It was required that any project was possible to establish within a relatively short time period, such as a single year. More background information on this second call (PLP2) is available on the SciLifeLab webpage. Please see the below section on PLP2 to find out more about the capabilities selected from this call.
The PLP program also supports a number of Technology Development Projects (TDPs). The call for TDPs (established December 2021) was established in order to build closer associations with the clinical microbiology labs in Sweden. The TDP projects will develop services and capabilities at major clinical microbiology laboratories in Sweden. For more information about this call please refer to the SciLifeLab webpage. Please also see the below TDP section for more information about the TDPs resulting from this call.
Since the emergence of Omicron (a new SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VoC)) in December 2021, the PLP program and wider SciLifeLab community have been putting further resources into research on Omicron. Research on the Omicron variant is already underway in multiple PLP projects.
Pillars of the PLP program
The Pandemic Laboratory Prepardness program is built on four pillars:
- National infrastructure
- Biobanks and diagnostics
- National research program
- The COVID-19 & Pandemic Preparedness Data Portal
As you may note, this Portal (formerly the Swedish COVID-19 Data Portal) forms one of four pillars of PLP program. Our scope is expanding to include resources related to pandemic preparedness and infectious diseases that could be the cause of future pandemics. However, as the current pandemic is still ongoing, COVID-19 will remain a major focus for the foreseeable future.
The PLP network
The PLP program aims to build a national network of laboratory capabilities (the PLP network). Capabilities are funded in different calls. In this section, we list the capabilities funded in each call and provide links to their webpages.
All PLP capabilities are also linked on our Pandemic Preparedness Resources page.
The following PLP capabilites are part of The Pandemic Laboratory Preparedness Program 1 (PLP1).
|BSL3 Biomedicum-SciLifeLab Collaborative Platform||Antonio Rothfuchs||Karolinska Institute|
|Genomic Pandemic Preparedness Portfolio (G3P) – Nationally scalable genomics portfolio for detection and surveillance of viral outbreaks||Valtteri Wirta||Karolinska Institutet|
|Multiplex and high-throughput multi-disease serology||Peter Nilsson||KTH Royal Institute of Technology|
|Pandemic sample centers - enabling SciLifeLab infrastructures to form pandemic preparedness capability||Janne Lehtiö||Karolinska Institutet|
|Rapid establishment of comprehensive laboratory pandemic preparedness – RAPID-SEQ||Jan Albert||Karolinska Institutet|
|SEEC: Swedish Environmental Epidemiology Center||Anna J. Székely||Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences|
|Systems-level immunomonitoring to unravel immune response to a novel pathogen||Petter Brodin||Karolinska Institutet|
|ZSC: National core facility for Pandemic Preparedness||Åke Lundkvist||Uppsala University|
The following PLP capabilites are part of The Pandemic Laboratory Preparedness Program 2 (PLP2).
|Monitoring the Swedish population-level neutralization of current and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants (SwedN)||Ben Murrell||Karolinska Institutet|
|Pandemic preparedness against antimicrobial resistance through wastewater monitoring||Sanna Koskiniemi||Uppsala University|
|Preparedness by early detection of infections in the elderly||Mattias Forsell||Umeå University|
|Rapid discovery of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies for first line defense||Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam||Karolinska Institutet|
|Strengthening population health surveillance and epidemics monitoring by microsampling||Claudia Fredolini||KTH Royal Institute of Technology|
The PLP network currently includes the following Technology Development Projects (TDPs).
Further reading about the PLP program
- Overview of the PLP program.
- Initial SciLifeLab announcement about work on future pandemics.
- First year report for the PLP program.
Personnel and contact
Scientific lead for the SciLifeLab Pandemic Laboratory Preparedness: Professor Staffan Svärd.
Coordinator for the Pandemic Laboratory Preparedness capability: Monica Ekberg.
If you have any questions, please email Monica Ekberg.