Tübingen and Hanoi have had a university partnership to research contagious diseases and find antidotes for years.
Not only the outbreak of the coronavirus has made the risk of contagious diseases visible. Dengue fever, measles, flu, chickenpox, hepatitis and Ebola can also drastically change people’s lives or even pose a deadly threat. Finding remedies in the form of therapies and vaccinations is an urgent concern of infectious disease researchers around the world.
These efforts’ chances of success increase when specialists from different countries work together, not least because globalisation is facilitating the spread of infectious diseases. Bringing together knowledge and pooling skills is therefore very important.
Such close, trusting and productive collaboration has existed for more than 20 years between the Institute for Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen and the 108 Military Central Hospital Hanoi. The latter is one of the largest hospitals in Vietnam, providing around 2,000 inpatient and 5,000 outpatient treatments every day. A group of physicians who received their PhDs at Tübingen, including several with funding from the DAAD, initiated the cooperation many years ago. Among them were Prof. Dr. Le Huu Song, today Deputy Director of the 108 Medical Hospital, and Prof. Dr. Thirumalaisamy Velavan, team leader at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Tübingen.
On the basis of this long collaboration, the was established at the 108 Military Hospital in 2018, which comprises a centre of excellence for clinical research into infectious diseases. The VG-CARE is part of the university partnership between Tübingen and Hanoi. Le Huu Song is director of VG-CARE in Hanoi and Velavan is in charge of the centre on the German side.
Partnership across several continents
Together, the participants pursue the goal of advancing clinical research on infectious diseases, while networking science and research internationally and thus achieving better results. “We wanted to strengthen teaching and develop research capacities in a poorer country and so create a reference laboratory for infectious diseases in Vietnam”, says Velavan, describing the motivation behind founding VG-CARE.
Since 2015, the DAAD has been promoting the collaboration, which has already produced more than 70 joint publications and many Vietnamese scientists trained and graduated in Tübingen. Numerous seminars and summer schools in Hanoi and winter schools in Tübingen are also part of the collaborative work. Another south-south partnership has now likewise been established with Gabon. Organised by the University of Tübingen, experts from Asia and Africa exchange ideas. It is planned that researchers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will join the dialogue. “In this way we are positioning ourselves even more broadly”, says Velavan.
Important contribution to good health
The work of the German-Vietnamese scientific cooperation contributes to various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): health and well-being (SDG 2), because it conducts important basic research in the fight against infectious diseases; high-quality education (SDG 4); and partnerships (SDG 17).
The spirit that shapes the collaboration is shown by an incident related to Covid-19. The University of Tübingen is currently working on the development of a medicine against the disease and is conducting clinical studies on the drug. Because the German researchers were lacking swab tubes at the height of the pandemic in April 2020, the Vietnamese helped out swiftly and unbureaucratically with 6,000 kits. The example illustrates how much the institutes work side by side – and that theirs is a true exchange, operating in both directions.