WHO recognizes the National Food Institute's genomics research

Tuesday 23 Aug 16


Frank Møller Aarestrup
Professor, Head of Division
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 81


Rene S. Hendriksen
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 88

The World Health Organization, WHO, has appointed the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, as its first ever Collaborating Centre for Genomics. As such the WHO is recognizing the institute’s pioneering work in research into the use of whole genome sequencing – a technology that allows a microorganism’s entire DNA profile to be mapped simultaneously. As collaborating centre the institute will, among other things, help pave the way for the technology to be rolled out in developing countries as a tool to monitor and fight foodborne disease outbreaks.

WHO has numerous collaborating centres around the world. They support WHO’s work programme within different areas by e.g. gathering and publishing data, developing evidence-based analytical tools and protocols as well as planning and conducting training courses.

In Denmark, the National Food Institute has been WHO Collaborating Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens since the millennium. In August 2016 the collaborating centre’s mandate was extended to also include genomics, making the National Food Institute WHO’s first collaborating centre for genomics.

Genomics is the study of all genes in an organism and their functions.

Pioneer within whole genome sequencing

This change is recognition of the National Food Institute’s research within the area of whole genome sequencing. The institute’s research is helping to set the international standard for the detection, surveillance and study of the global spread of disease-causing microorganisms and antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

With the extended mandate, the National Food Institute will now advise the WHO on the most effective global use and exchange of data on bacteria’s DNA profiles. The institute will also support the implementation of the technology in developing countries, e.g. through proficiency testing and reference tests.

The new mandate also makes it possible for the institute to include whole genome sequencing as part of the proficiency tests, which routinely test the ability of reference laboratories worldwide to determine the prevalence of resistance in different foodborne bacterial species.

Capacity building in developing countries

WHO’s ambition is to help developing countries implement whole genome sequencing technologies as a tool to monitor and fight disease outbreaks. As collaborating centre the National Food Institute will help reach this goal by developing analytical tools and standards for whole genome sequencing which can be included in the countries’ disease surveillance systems and by conducting training courses in the use of the technologies.

Read more

The collaborating centre’s mandate is described in further detail on the website of the WHO Collaborating Center for Antimicrobial Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens and Genomics.

The National Food Institute’s website also has more information about the institute’s research within the area of whole genome sequcing.
18 OCTOBER 2021