On March 24th, 2021, the three ZIKA Research Consortia funded by the European Union, ZikaPLAN, ZIKAction, and ZIKAlliance came together for a panel discussion hosted by ZikaPLAN and shared experience of their almost 5-year collaboration.
During the last five years, we three built sustainable research networks to respond to the Zika virus outbreak and, established a shared trans-national communication platform across the Caribbean and South America. During endemics and indeed pandemics, the need for collaborations and research that fill the knowledge gaps brought on by new pathogens remains vital. As a consortia, we benefited from such an agreement and together, we tackled the Zika virus from angles that were different but complementary. We joined forces and scientific expertise to find answers to questions that needed large numbers. This was made possible by harmonising pregnancy and paediatric cohort protocols and datasets across the consortia, enabling us to significantly contribute to the WHO ZIKV Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis (a WHO initiative aimed at pooling data on children with congenital zika syndrome).
Being a large group, as a consortia, we created visibility that brought with us credibility with policymakers and leading institutions and as a result, we were able to contribute to activities and projects beyond our initial scope. Our capacity building activities will continue to be essential in the preparedness for future pandemics and at present, the experience gained in data sharing could feed over into new COVID-19 research projects.